In a day where many sports enthusiasts thought to be a black Thursday for team Philippines, Olympic swimmer Jasmine Alkhaldi came to the rescue as she propelled her way to win Philippines 4th gold medal in this year’s 27th Southeast Asian Games in Myanmar.
The 20-year-old University of Hawaii student barged into the evening finals seeded second with a time of 57.76 in the morning heats of the women’s 100m freestyle event.
Though seeded second in the evening finals, Alkhaldi was considered a dark horse in the said event, with 2011 SEAG gold medal winner Natthanan Junkrajang of Thailand, 2009 SEAG gold medal winner Ting Wen Quah of Singapore and two time 50m Freestyle SEAG gold medal winner Amanda Xiang Qi Lim as the hot favorites to win this year’s gold medal.
Off to a fine start, Alkhaldi was trailing Singapore’s Ting Wen Quah and Amanda Xiang Qi Lim in third place in the middle of the race.
Ting Wen Quah in lane 6 and Amandal Lim in lane 4 extended their lead in the last 40 meters of the race, sandwiching Alkhaldi in lane 5, who continued to traile the two Singaporeans.
Alkhaldi closed the gap in the last 25 meters of the race, with Amanda Lim slowing down, but Ting Wen Quah still looking poised to keep her lead until the last 10 meters of the race when Alkhaldi finally swam neck to neck with Ting Wen Quah and propelled her way in the last 5 meters of the race to score a an upset and secure her first ever gold medal in SEA Games with a time of 56.65, a bit slower than her national record of 56.37.
Singaporeans Ting Wen Quah and Amanda Lim took the silver and the bronze with a time of 56.74 and 57.21, respectively.
Alkhaldi’s win is the lone gold medal of Philippines in today’s action; and not just that, it is her first ever SEA Games medal since she first represented Philippines in 2009.
Also, this is Philippines’ first gold medal in the women’s 100m freestyle event since Akiko Thompson won this event in 1989. And most importantly, her gold medal tonight is the first ever gold medal won by a Filipino female swimmer in SEA Games since 1995. The last Filipino female swimmer to have won a gold medal in SEA Games was Akiko Thompson in 1995 SEA Games. Since then none of the female swimmers from the Philippines have won a gold medal. Coming close was Liza Danila who have won several silver medals in backstroke events in early 2000, and Dorothy Grace Hong in 2011 SEA Games in Indonesia where she won the silver medal in the 200m Backstroke.
Alkhaldi’s gold is not only a great victory to Philippine sports today (for being the only gold of the day), but also to Philippine swimming.
She will be back in action on Saturday in the women’s 100m butterfly event.
Compatriot Matt Navata placed 4th in the men’s 400m individual medley with a time of 4:30.75.
Other medal winners of the day are wrestlers Alvin Lobrequito, Jhonny Morte and Joseph Angana who won a bronze each in their respective freestyle events.
Also victorious today are the men’s basketball team who beat host Myanmar, 118-43, and boxer Josie Gabuco who advanced to the semifinal round. Lady boxers flyweight Maricris Igam and bantamweight Irish Magno lost their respective semifinals bout today, and settled for bronze.
Unable to deliver a medal today are paddlers Hermie Macaranas and Alex Generalo.
Macaranas placed 4th in the men’s C1 500m canoeing event, while Generalo placed 6th in the MK1 500m canoeing event.
Philippine woodpushers on the other hand got off to a shaky start in the relatively unfamiliar Asean chess as Darwin Laylo drew with Nay Kyaw Tun of Myanmar while fellow Grandmaster Eugene Torre lost to Muhammad Luftiali of Indonesia in the six-round event.
Better results are also expected tomorrow as billiards, karatedo, weightlifting and sailing get going with Filipino karatekas, swimmers, cue artists and lifters, as well as those in canoeing and kayaking, eyeing to win gold medals.