Alkhaldi exit leaves 5 PH athletes in medal hunt
RIO DE JANEIRO—Qualification did not get less complicated the second time around for swimmer Jasmine Alkhaldi, despite her more intense training going to the Rio Summer Games.
The two-time Olympian atoned for her disappointing performance in London 2012 with a better time but still missed the semifinal boat by a mile in her heat of the 100-meter freestyle on Wednesday at the Olympic Swimming Stadium here.
Alkhaldi timed 56.30 seconds, settling for an unremarkable third place in the race won by Norway’s Susann Bjornsen in 55.35. Thailand’s Junkrajang Nathanan pipped the Filipino-Saudi Arabian for second with a time of 56.24.
With the 33rd-best effort in a field of 46, the 23-year-old Hawaii-based Alkhaldi failed to progress to the two-heat semifinals of what is traditionally considered swimming’s glamor event for its usual star-studded cast of entries.
“It seems that everyone’s swimming faster now,” said Alkhaldi.
She came into the heats bullish on her target of resetting her own national record of 56.10, which she set in last year’s Southeast Asian Games in Singapore.
Australia’s Cate Campbell ruled the heats with an Olympic record time of 52.78 seconds to lead the 16 qualifiers.
The exit of the Parañaque-born Alkhaldi left the country with only five athletes still standing.
Miguel Tabuena opened his bid in the golf competition’s first round on Thursday over the links-type layout of the Olympic Golf Course in Barre district, near the Athletes Village.
The recent US Open campaigner competes against a high-powered field that includes the US’ Bubba Watson, Britain’s Danny Willett, Germany’s Martin Kaymer and Ireland’s Padraig Harrington—all former major winners.
“The Olympic course is new and not even the host Brazilians have really played it,” said Tabuena’s father Luigi, himself a competent golfer. “No one has the advantage of course familiarity here.”
The par-71, 7,162-yard links layout, with its sleek greens and tight fairways, is buffeted by constantly shifting winds coming from the coast and punishes errant shots off the tee.
Alkhaldi’s time was significantly faster than her 57.13 clocking in the 2012 London Olympics, where she wound up 34th in the start list of 50.
“I’m happy with the results but I would have been happier if I swam faster,” she said. “We got the time that we trained for.
“I think I did my best,” added Alkhaldi. “We did everything that we could. I was like asking myself, ‘What more can I do to get faster?”
Chief of mission Joey Romasanta said the five remaining athletes—Tabuena, long jumper Marestella Torres-Sunang, marathoner Mary Joy Tabal and hurdler Eric Shaun Cray—are all inspired by Hidilyn Diaz’s medal feat and have vowed to fight to the finish.
“We don’t want to put pressure on our remaining athletes but another medal of any color will give the Philippines its best finish ever in the Olympics,” Romasanta said.