Last PH bet crashes outBy Ted S. Melendres
Philippine Daily Inquirer
LONDON—Daniel Caluag produced five unremarkable runs in his quarterfinal heat and crashed out of the BMX competition Thursday, blowing a final chance to salvage a measure of pride for the Philippines at the 30th London Olympics here.
Caluag’s inelegant foldup in the face of vastly superior opposition rounded out the 11-athlete contingent’s paltry campaign at these Games in which all but one failed to reach the second round of their respective sports.
Either Caluag underestimated the enemy as he went to war at the 450-meter Olympic sand-and-dirt track in Stratford, or overestimated his capabilities. Or both.
Outfought in the jumps and pitifully lacking in pedal speed, the 31-year-old nursing student from Harbor City, California, finished dead-last twice and came no higher than fifth place in the eight-man five-run quarterfinals.
Caluag, bruited as a former four-time No. 1 pro in the United States, was not as good as advertised, rued an official of the PH delegation who nevertheless praised the rider’s grit.
Still with a mathematical chance of joining the four semifinal qualifiers after three runs—he lay three points behind the fourth man—Caluag came to grief in the fourth spin by placing second to last, like in Run 2.
“You know I gave it my all for the Philippines,” he said. “I thought I could come back stronger in the third and fourth runs. Overall, I’m happy with my performance.”
Caluag’s stunning exit mirrored that of long jumper Marestella Torres and light flyweight boxer Mark Anthony Barriga—perhaps the two worthiest losers among the Filipinos here.
Barriga broke the Filipinos’ victory jinx over two Olympics by easily outpointing Italian Manuel Cappai in the first round but was then denied passage to the quarterfinals by an overzealous referee and by Birzhan Zhakypov, a wrestler of a boxer from Kazakhstan.
Torres gave everything she had in three clear attempts only to miss by the size of her track shoes the semifinal grade of 6.40 meters, which was much shorter than her recent leaps, let alone her national record of 6.71m.
“I came prepared, I did everything out there,” said Caluag, who wound up tied with Italian Manuel de Vecchi at the tail of Heat 3 with 29 points. “This is racing. You can’t tell when you’re off or not. You go out there to fight.”
Marc Willers of New Zealand and French No. 2 seed Joris Daudet qualified to the semifinals outright by finishing 1-2 after three runs with 4 and 7 points, respectively. Willers, who won Runs 1 and 3, and Run 2 victor Daudet left the battle for the last two spots to Caluag, De Vecchi, Americans David Herman and Nicholas Long, Swiss rider Roger Rinderknecht, and Argentinian Ernesto Pizzaro.
Herman, who won Run 4, and Rinderknecht later rounded the heat’s semifinalists with 18 points after five runs.
Caluag could have posted a finish better than fifth in the first had he accelerated faster following a six-man spill right at the first turn. He got up ahead of everyone but failed to clear the next jump as quickly as he wanted.
Speed off the ramp deserted the Filipino-American from the second run on and he compensated only with composed cornering. But with his pedal speed wanting and his comparative inefficiency in the jumps turning out to be a heavy drag, Caluag couldn’t hope for qualification.
“I have cuts and bruises all over my body,” he said. “But I didn’t mind them because I really wanted to make the next stage. Glad I was not injured in that spill.”
Still, Caluag said he is ready for another tour of duty for the country.
“I’d be happy to represent the Philippines in the Southeast Asian Games or the Asian Games,” he said. “I’m really honored to be part of the team.”