PH archer, swimmer hit exitsBy Ted S. Melendres
Philippine Daily Inquirer
LONDON—Light flyweight pug Mark Anthony Barriga finally broke the Philippines’ winless spell in two Olympics Tuesday but Rachell Anne Cabral and swimmer Jasmine Alkhaldi bombed out, becoming the fourth and fifth Filipino to be eliminated from the London Games here.
On a dreary Wednesday morning at Olympic Park in Stratford, Alkhaldi floundered in the wake of Hungarian winner Eszter Dara’s torrid pace in the third of seven heats of the 100-meter women’s freestyle and wound up fifth.
The 19-year-old daughter of a Saudi Arabian businessman and his Cebuana wife timed 57.13 seconds—21 hundredths of a second off her personal best of 56.92—in finishing 35th in a field of 48th.
Cabral gave herself little chance of pulling the rug from under an off-form world No. 8 Anna Stepanova of Russia and crashed out in the first round of the women’s recurve 70-meter individual competition at Lord’s Cricket Ground in West London late Tuesday (Manila time).
Admittedly unused to shooting in a narrow two-bay range framed on three sides by excited galleries, the 27-year-old from Tuguegarao, Cagayan, bowed to Stepanova, 1-7, in their knockout match played in the chilly drizzle.
Cabral opened with a paltry 6 in the three-arrow opening set and a humiliating 3 in the second as Stepanova, herself uncharacteristically erratic after powering the Russian trio to the semifinals in the team competition, closed out the match in four sets, 23-22, 23-18, 25-25, 27-22.
The archer with the most number of points after three arrows wins the set and gets 2 points. If the set ends with both archers having the same score, each one gets a point. The first archer to win 6 points clinches the match.
Barriga, scoring on counterpunches and left straights, became the new toast of Philippine amateur boxing by easily outpointing a taller Manuel Cappai of Italy, 17-7, in the first round of the light flyweight competition at ExCeL Arena 2.
“Malakas din sumuntok pero nalusutan natin (He packed power in his punches but I managed to pull through,” said the 19-year-old Barriga after the well-applauded fight watched by scores of flag-waving Filipinos.
The victory by the only Filipino boxer in these Games halted the unsuccessful forays of 200m freestyle swimmer Jesse Khing Lacuna, lifter Hidilyn Diaz, skeet shooter Brian Rosario, Cabral and Alkhaldi, who have been eliminated one after the other by the vastly superior enemy.
More importantly, Barriga ended the country’s Olympic jinx, a winless spell that dated back to the 2008 Beijing Games where not one Filipino athlete got past the first round of their respective events.
The fighter from Panabo, Davao—fondly called the Little Pacquiao by foreign boxers when he trained in Cardiff, Wales before the Olympics—forged a second-round encounter with Kazakhstan’s Birzhan Zhakypov on Saturday.
Zhakypov, an unorthodox fighter who ended up with a bloodied nose in sparring with Barriga in Uzbekistan last year, nipped Frenchman Jeremy Beccu via a controversial 18-17 decision.
“Nagulat po ako sa biglang atensyon sa akin matapos ang laro (I was surprised by all the attention given me after the bout),” the 5-foot Barriga told reporters here through boxing executive director Ed Picson. “Malaki pa po ang kailangan naming gawin para maka-medalya (We still have a lot of things to accomplish in order to win a medal.”
Archer Mark Javier was still battling 10th-seeded Ellison Brady of the United States in the men’s 70-meter recurve competition at Lord’s Cricket Ground.
Told by coach Pinky Brosas to “just have fun” in the face of the tough competition, Alkhaldi came in fifth behind the Hungarian Dara (55.37 secs), Mexico’s Liliana Ibanez Lopez (55.71), Slovakia’s Nastja Govelsek (56.21), and Southeast Asian Games rival Mylene Ong of Singapore(56.33).
Chinese superstar Tang Yi, racing in Heat 5, posted the fastest qualifying time of 53.28 seconds, and led the 16 qualifiers to the semifinals.