Tankers upbeat on SEAG chances
Swimming has drawn a blank in the race for gold medals at the last two Southeast Asian (SEA) Games but coach Archie Lim said yesterday he’s hoping to end the drought with 12 bets, including nine who are based abroad, in the squad for the Singapore edition on June 5-16.
Lim, 36, has been with the national coaching staff since the 2007 World Championships and SEA Games. The former UP varsity swimmer used to be Pinky Brosas’ long-time assistant but in Singapore, he’ll share coaching chores with Jennifer Buffin of the University of Hawaii. It will be a coordinated effort with Buffin overseeing swimmers Jasmine Alkhaldi, Joboy Gonzalez, Lily Jordana and Mira Santa Ana and Lim looking after the others.
The lineup is composed of Gonzalez, Joshua Hall, Jessie King Lacuna, Aldrich McKirdy and Axel Ngui in the men’s division and Alkhaldi, Hannah Dato, Gavino, Jordana, Santa Ana, Imelda Wistey and Roxanne Yu in the women’s division. The youngest is Gavino, 14, and the oldest is Hall, 24. Three swimmers initially in the cast withdrew, namely, Jethro Chua, Chloe Isleta and Fahad Alkhaldi.
Lim said he hasn’t seen Jordana, McKirdy and Santa Ana compete and Wistey arrived from the US only a few days ago in her first visit to the country. Philippine Swimming Inc. (PSI) president Mark Joseph said Alkhaldi, Gonzalez, Jordana and Santa Ana will get together to train with Buffin in Hawaii starting tomorrow and fly straight to Singapore on June 1. Dato, Lacuna, Ngui and McKirdy are now training in Australia. Lim said the team will rendezvous in Singapore on June 3, train for two days then begin competition on June 6.
At the SEA Games in Myanmar two years ago, the Philippines was represented by only four swimmers who brought in four bronze medals. Alkhaldi topped the 100-meter freestyle but was stripped of the gold medal after the formal awarding. A re-swim was ordered the next day, a highly controversial decision on the flimsy excuse of a false start. Alkhaldi wound up with the bronze. The last SEA Games where the Philippines hit paydirt in swimming was in 2009 with four golds.
Joseph said this year’s SEA Games will mark a milestone in Philippine aquatics history. “It’s important to us at PSI and POC because the SEA Games is named part of the Rio Olympic qualifying pathway,” he said. “This is also the first time that every Olympic discipline in our federation will be there – water polo, diving, synchronized swimming and swimming, all genders. We are grateful to Cong. (POC president Jose Cojuangco) for his support to be able to do this. Rio is the context that the SEA Games must be understood and seen in light of. The obsession with outcomes is useless if we are not obsessed with competing at the pre-Olympic qualifiers, earning an IOC invitation and participating in the Olympics. At the end of the day, it ends up with Cong and he has always signed yes on the scholarships, entries and final acceptance of the POC to the IOC. It’s a POC victory because this is our job. PSC chairman Richie Garcia has been supportive and continues to be because he sees the big picture that Cong does.”
Lim said he has high hopes for Alkhaldi, Hall and Wistey to capture golds in Singapore. “We think everyone has a chance to medal,” he said. “We’ve studied their best times and the potential is evident based on statistics. We know each swimmer’s specialty event and we’ll decide later the composition of the relays.”
Lim said Alkhaldi, 21, will compete in the 50-meter, 100-meter and 200-meter freestyle and 100-meter butterfly. Dato, 20, will be in the 50-meter, 100-meter and 200-meter butterfly and 200-meter and 400-meter individual medley. Jordana, 18, will vie for honors in the 50-meter, 100-meter and 200-meter backstroke and may join the 4x100 and 4x200 freestyle relays. Wistey, 23, will do the 50-meter, 100-meter and 200-meter breaststroke. Lacuna, 21, will compete in the 200-meter and 400-meter freestyle, 200-meter individual medley and 100-meter and 200-meter butterfly. Hall, 24, will do the 50-meter, 100-meter and 200-meter breaststroke.
Gonzalez, 21, and Alkhaldi are with the University of Hawaii varsity. Hall swam for the University of Minnesota and is now with the New York Athletic Club. Santa Ana, 18, is a Fil-Am from Torrance, California, and swims for Azusa Pacific University. Gavino is from Glendale, California and swims for the British International School in Phuket like Ngui. McKirdy, 22, is a Fil-Australian swimmer from Sydney. Yu, 18, also swims for the British International School in Phuket and plans to go to college in the US, possibly the University of Miami. Jordana was recently accepted to swim with the Texas A&M varsity.
“We’re grateful to the PSC for this opportunity particularly as at first, we were limited to only four swimmers based on their best times equaling the third place finishes at the last SEA Games,” said Lim. “But we appealed to add more to our team from eight to 11 to 15 and finally, down to 12. Some of our swimmers are a few seconds away from the time for a third place finish but we hope in Singapore, they improve and overachieve.” Lim said the performance of the swimmers will determine their potential to compete at the World Championships in Russia this August and the Olympics next year.
Wistey, a former Iowa State swimmer now taking up a Master’s course in English Literature, arrived from the US a few days ago and is adjusting to the climate, environment and Manila traffic. “It’s her first time in the Philippines,” said Lim. “She trained for two days then will go to Naga, where her mother is from, for a week. Based on her records, she’ll be competitive in Singapore. We’re excited to welcome her to our team.”
Fil-Am swimmer Lily Jordana with (from left) POC first vice president Joey Romasanta, PSC chairman Richie Garcia and Philippine delegation to the SEA Games chef de mission Julian Camacho.