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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Philippine's Fighting Fifteen

By Marc Anthony Reyes

MANILA, Philippines—Absent from the medal tally of the last two Olympiads in Sydney and Athens, the Philippines tries to break the ice this time with a lean but well-trained 15-member crew to the Beijing Summer Games.

The bulk of Team Philippines leaves on Tuesday for the gleaming Chinese capital in time for the Games’ opening ceremonies on Friday.

In the next fortnight, the country’s Fightingest Fifteen will battle the world’s finest athletes in hopes of landing that elusive target: the gold medal.

Inquirer Sports analyzes the medal chances of each of the 15 athletes in the Games of the XXIX Olympiad. Here goes:

BOXING—Light flyweight class

The 29-year-old world championship silver medalist from Zamboanga faces a treacherous climb to the gold medal.

True, Harry Tañamor has beaten nine of the 27 other Beijing Olympics hopefuls in his class, but he still has to get the better of China’s world champion Zou Shiming and Russia’s world No. 1 David Aryapetyan.

Tañamor bowed to Zou, 17-3, in the Chicago world championships in a lopsided final that betrayed his defensive inadequacies against a highly mobile foe.

INQUIRER SPORTS FORECAST: Very good chance of landing a medal.


Diminutive for a shotgun marksman, the 5-foot-4, 128-pound Eric Ang could be the Philippines’ hidden ace in these Olympics.

The 37-year-old from Laoag City nailed a wild-card berth in Beijing.

Medal hopes, though faint, spring from Ang’s most recent form in the 2008 World Cup in Suhl, Germany, in June where he shot a new RP record of 121 birds and ended up tied in sixth place with Athens Olympics gold medalist Alexey Alipov of Russia. The meet’s best Asian performer finished just two birds behind Australian world champion Michael Diamond.

INQUIRER SPORTS FORECAST: Longshot to 50-50 chance of landing a medal.

ARCHERY—Men’s Individual (Olympic round-70 meters)

Although ranked a lowly No. 75 in the world, Mark Javier is worth a second look in Beijing.

The 26-year-old from Dumaguete City landed sixth in a field of 122 in the 2008 Meteksan Archery World Cup in Shanghai.

Javier then posted a scintillating victory in the 1st Asian Archery Championships in October last year in Xian, China.

INQUIRER SPORTS FORECAST: Almost nil to longshot chance of landing a medal.

ATHLETICS—Men’s Long Jump

Although he trained in the United States for a year, Henry Dagmil is still not ready for his maiden Olympic stint. Unable to meet the Olympic “B Class” criteria of 8.05 meters, the 26-year-old Dagmil made it to the RP team as the country’s mandatory male participant in Beijing.
Indeed, Dagmil’s best of 7.97m will get him nowhere in Beijing. The world record is 8.95m, set by American Mike Powell, which has stood for 17 years.

INQUIRER SPORTS FORECAST: Almost zero chance of landing a medal.

ATHLETICS—Women’s Long Jump

The lithe 27-year-old jumper from San Jose, Negros Oriental, takes pride in being Southeast Asia’s undisputed queen. But Marestella Torres’ medal chances in the Beijing Olympics is nil. She made it to the Olympics as the country’s mandatory female competitor.

Torres never came close this year to surpassing her personal best of 6.63 meters. In an event where Russia’s Galina Chistyakova holds the world record of 7.52m, Torres will be gunning for no more than a personal best.

INQUIRER SPORTS FORECAST: Almost zero chance of landing a medal.


The youngest member of Team Philippines, 16-year-old Hidilyn Diaz will compete as a wild card in her first Olympics.

With personal bests of 105 kg in the clean and jerk and 85 kg in the snatch, Diaz is a virtual pupil in her 12-lifter division. Her models will be China’s Chen Yanqing, who holds the world record snatch of 111 kg and Chen’s compatriot Qiu Hongmei, the record-holder in the clean and jerk with 141 kg.

INQUIRER SPORTS FORECAST: Almost zero chance of landing a medal.

TAEKWONDO—Women’s -67 kg class

This focused young woman from Pasig City is seeking Olympic redemption. The then 16-year-old Toni Rivero fell a win shy of the silver in the 2004 Athens Olympics and eventually missed out on the bronze after absorbing a second loss, in the repechage, at the hands of South Korea’s Hwang Kyung-seon.

The Greek woman who beat her 3-2 for the silver, Elisavet Mystakidou, is now 31, her form ravaged by time. But Hwang—who went on to win the World Championships gold back-to-back in 2005 and 2007—still remains a force.

INQUIRER SPORTS FORECAST: Very good chance of landing a medal.

TAEKWONDO— Men’s -58 kg class

The Philippines’ other taekwondo jin deserves a perfect retirement gift: an Olympic medal. Now 27, he clinched his second Olympic appearance by landing the bronze in the world qualifying in Manchester, England, last year.

In Athens, Go failed to progress past the quarterfinals, bowing to Spain’s Juan Antonio Ramos in the repechage.

Go’s biggest rival in Beijing is Chinese Taipei’s Chu Mu-yen, who topped the Manchester meet, and Germany’s Levent Tumcat, who beat him in the fight for the silver.

INQUIRER SPORTS FORECAST: 50-50 to very good chance of landing a medal.

SWIMMING—Men’s 200m individual medley, 200m breaststroke

Miguel Molina, 24, knows his personal bests can’t float on the purified waters of Beijing’s high-tech National Aquatics Center pool.

The SEA Games’ Best Male Athlete last year, Molina owns RP high-water marks that are ancient to the likes of American Michael Phelps and Australian Ian Thorpe.

The Filipino’s time of 2:03.22 in the 200m IM, for instance, is about 8.5 seconds slower than Phelps’ world-record 1:54.80. His RP record of 2:16.62 in the 200m breaststroke, meanwhile, is 9.11 seconds off the world record 2:07.51 of Japan’s Kosuke Kitajima.

INQUIRER SPORTS FORECAST: Almost zero chance of landing a medal.

SWIMMING—Men’s 50m freestyle

If bloodlines are worth anything, then Daniel Coakley can be expected to deliver in Beijing. But that’s outright fiction, and the grandson of the late Teofilo Yldefonso—winner of back-to-back bronze medals in the 1928 Amsterdam and 1932 Los Angeles Olympics—knows where he stands in his favorite event.

Coakley hopes to reset his RP mark of 22.80 seconds in a high-powered event dominated over the last year by Australian world record-holder Eamon Sullivan (21.28).

INQUIRER SPORTS FORECAST: Almost zero chance of landing a medal.

SWIMMING—50m and 100m freestyle

Filipino-Hawaiian Christel Simms made the Olympic criteria for the 100m freestyle at the USA Junior Nationals at Indianapolis last year.

The 17-year-old high schooler’s RP records of 57.17 in the 100m free and 26.31 in the 50m free are way off the world marks of 53.88 and 23.97 held by Libby Lenton of Australia and Marleen Veldhuis of the Netherlands, respectively.

INQUIRER SPORTS FORECAST: Almost zero chance of landing a medal.

SWIMMING—Men’s 200m butterfly

Filipino-American James Walsh sealed his Olympic slot last year at the USA Senior Nationals where he clocked an RP record of 2:00.42, easily surpassing the Olympic criteria of 2:01.79. The 21-year-old balik-Olympian from Virginia has shaved more than six seconds off his personal best since winding up 37th (2:06.76) at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Walsh’s fastest time, though, is close to eight seconds off the six-year-old world record of 1:52.09 held by Frenchman Franck Esposito.

INQUIRER SPORTS FORECAST: Almost zero chance of landing a medal.

SWIMMING—Men’s 1,500m freestyle

His best time in swimming’s longest event and that of the world record, when compared, will make a Filipino spectator cry.

Ryan Arabejo owns the Philippine record of 15:39.86 minutes in the gruelling 1,500m event, a far cry from the Asian record of 14:55.03 and miles away from the 14:34.56 world record held by Australia’s Grant Hackett.

INQUIRER SPORTS FORECAST: Almost zero chance of landing a medal.

DIVING—Women’s 3-meter springboard, 1m springboard
Southeast Asia’s undisputed queen of diving is back in the big leagues again after battling through a back injury last year.

Sheila Mae Perez, the charming 22-year-old from Sasa Parola, Davao City, is seeing action in her second Olympics since 2000, when she ended up 32nd in a field of 56 in the 3m springboard in Sydney.

Fresh off a six-month training in China, Perez hopes to better her 17th-place finish in the 2008 FINA Diving World Cup in Beijing.

INQUIRER SPORTS FORECAST: Almost zero chance of landing a medal.

DIVING—Men’s 10-meter platform

The powerful, 5-foot-5 diver from Davao City clinched his place in Beijing by finishing fourth in the finals of the 2008 Diving World Cup.

Fabriga placed fourth in the synchronized event and 28th in the individual competition at the 2001 FINA Diving Grand Prix.

He will set out to reclaim his status as Southeast Asia’s best diver, the title he lost to a Malaysian in the 2007 Thailand SEA Games.

INQUIRER SPORTS FORECAST: Almost zero chance of landing a medal.

Blog Credits: The Philippine Daily Inquirer

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