Tankers up­beat on SEAG chances

The Philippine Star - - INSIDE SPORTS - By JOAQUIN HEN­SON

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.

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