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RP’s best hope for Olympic gold medal climbs ring

By Teddyvic S. Melendres
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:47:00 08/13/2008

Filed Under: Summer Olympics, Boxing, Archery, swimming, 200mmedley, 100mfreestyle, light flyweight, 50mfreestyle

BEIJING?World championships silver medalist Harry Tañamor finally climbs into the ring on Wednesday in what is perhaps the most anticipated outing by a Filipino in the Philippines? busiest day so far at the 29th Olympiad here.

Shouldering his nation?s hope of ending its Olympic gold medal drought, the 29-year-old Tañamor takes on Ghana?s Manyo Plange in the sixth of 13 light flyweight bouts that start at 7 p.m. (same time in Manila) at the Beijing Workers Stadium.

Archer Mark Javier shoots 18 arrows against Chinese Taipei?s Kuo Cheng-wei in one of the 32 knockout matches in the men?s FITA 70-meter competition, while swimmers Miguel Molina and Christel Simms join the fray in the qualification stages of their events.

Tañamor, the country?s lone boxing entry, battles a stranger in the 21-year-old Ghanian who topped last year?s African championship after moving down a weight class from flyweight.

The Zamboangueño?s cornermen, Cuban Enrique Steyner Tissert and Pat Gaspi, were not a bit bothered that Tañamor was almost half a kilogram overweight on Tuesday morning, according to national amateur boxing chief Manny Lopez.

?Coach Enrique told Harry to eat fruits and everyone to relax as he has prepared Harry very well,? Lopez said. ?They are doing light workouts with the mitts for timing and coordination, while simulating the time of competition for body rhythm and metabolic adjustments.?

Tañamor needs five victories to secure the gold, four to clinch the silver, and three to land the bronze in his 29-pug class.

2 events each

The last Filipino to win a boxing medal was Mansueto ?Onyok? Velasco, who captured a silver in the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta.

Molina, the Southeast Asian Games? best male athlete, hits the water at 7:42 p.m. in the second of seven heats of the men?s 200-meter individual medley, an event where American superstar Michael Phelps is the heavy favorite to rule.

The only other Filipino swimmer apart from Simms with a second event in these Games, the 24-year-old Molina ranks 43rd among the 55 starters based on personal-best clocking.

Simms? turn

The Athens Olympics veteran holds the Philippine record of 2 minutes and 3.22 seconds, more than 8 seconds slower than Phelps? world high-water mark of 1:54.80 set only last July.

The 17-year-old Filipino-American Simms plunges into action earlier at 6:33 p.m. in the second of seven heats of the women?s 100m freestyle, also at the Water Cube aquatics venue, just across from the equally jaw-dropping Bird?s Nest main Olympic venue.

Simms, a former member of the US national junior team and Hawaii?s most notable swimmer the past three years, ranks fourth to last in the crack 50-strong field. She swims her second event, the 50m sprint, on Friday.

Six victories mean gold

With Fil-Am butterflier James Walsh bowing out of the Olympics in style on Monday, the onus is on Molina and Simms to lower their respective Philippine records as well.

The 21-year-old Walsh became the first Southeast Asian to go under 2 minutes in the 200m fly, clocking 1:59.39 in topping the second of seven heats of the event also lorded over by Phelps.

Javier, the Dumaguete-born Asian Championships gold medalist, went back to the Beijing Green Archery Field Tuesday morning to shoot arrows and calm his nerves on the eve of his duel with Kuo, part of Taiwan?s champion squad that won a 2008 World Cup leg in the Dominican Republic.

Javier needs five wins in the head-to-head duels to land the bronze, six to bag the gold.

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