Tabuena, Alora, 3 others left to carry Olympic medal hopes for Team PH

RIO DE JANEIRO – From 13 athletes, the Philippines is left with only five bets who will carry on the fight with 10 more days of action in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Jasmine Alkhaldi swam on a chilly day and vied in the women’s 100m freestyle Wednesday but could not get to the semis at the Olympic Aquatics Center.

She wished the remaining Filipino athletes here the best as they try to duplicate weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz’s feat and give the Philippines its best finish ever in the Olympics.

“Good luck and enjoy the moment. Enjoy being one of the very few Filipinos competing in the Olympics,” said Alkhaldi.

That was the same message Diaz gave to her fellow athletes before flying out of Rio. Just early this week, Diaz handed the Philippines its first Olympic medal in 20 years.

Chef-de-mission Jose Romasanta echoed Diaz’s farewell message.

“Inspired by Hidilyn’s medal feat and heeding her call, ‘Walang bibitiw. Laban lang’ (Don’t quit. Keep up the fight), our remaining five athletes vowed to do just that,” said Romasanta.

“We don’t want to put pressure on our remaining bets but another medal of any color will give the Philippines its best ever finish in the Olympics,” he said.

In 1932, the Philippines won three bronze medals courtesy of Simeon Toribio in men’s high jump, Jose Villanueva in men’s boxing (bantamweight) and Teofilo Yldefonso in men’s 200m breaststroke.

With Diaz’s silver, another medal of any color here will surpass that 1932 finish.

The 23-year-old Alkhaldi, who holds the Philippine record in the 50m, 100m and 200m freestyle, clocked 56.30 seconds, just a fraction off her best time of 56.10.

Alkhaldi, who did 57.13 in the 2012 London Olympics, good for 34th among 50 entries, this time landed 33rd from among 46 competitors.

“Overall it was okay. I’m happy with the results. I would have been happier if I swam faster but we got the time that we trained for,” said Alkhaldi.

While heading back to the Athletes Village with her American coach Jennifer Buffin, the student at University of Hawaii is still thinking of what’s next for her.

“I don’t know yet. I’m taking it one day at a time. I’m not sure yet,” said Alkhaldi, who should end up competing in the 2016 SEA Games in Malaysia.

Here in Rio, the tall and lovely Filipina did her best.

“I did my best. We did everything that we can. I asked myself. ‘What more can I do to get faster?’ I feel we did everything,” she said.

Now left to carry the fight for the Philippines are golfer Miguel Tabuena, who will compete against some of the world’s best starting Thursday here; marathoner Mary Joy Tabal on Aug. 14; long jumper Maresttella Torres Sunang and 400m hurdles bet Eric Cray on Aug. 16; and taekwondo’s Kirstie Elaine Alora on Aug. 20, the penultimate day of competition.

Tabuena, 21, is confident of putting up a good show in Rio. He’s enjoying his finest season as a pro and has brought his own caddy here from Baguio, Clayton Besset, and swing coach Joel Altea.

Tabuena’s father, Luigi, is also here.

Filipino sports officials led by Philippine Olympic Committee president Jose Cojuangco are providing moral support for Tabuena, the reigning Philippine Open champion.

“I feel confident,” said Tabuena, adding that if he can only keep his drives on the fairway he will have a good chance at scoring low.

“I’m more confident now pulling out my driver,” he said.

The other day, the Filipino group walked the 18 holes at the par-71, 7,162-yard links course, the Olympic Golf Course.

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