Swimming’s new darling never took a holiday break from training, even during Christmas season, in the past few years as she prepared for this big swim.
But Jasmine Alkhaldi, a marketing and international business sophomore at University of Hawaii, knows where she stands, and knows what to expect as return on that huge investment.
“To place well and to improve my best time,” Alkhaldi said with a smile.
The 5-foot-9 Alkhaldi made the semifinals of the 100-meter freestyle in the 2010 Youth Olympics in Singapore, and set her personal best of 56 seconds in the same event in the 2011 Southeast Asian Games.
In London, the 19-year-old Alkhaldi, daughter of a Saudi national and a Filipina from Cebu City, came in fifth in a field of seven in her heat with a time of 57.13 seconds to finish 34th overall out of 48 competitors in one of the glamour events of swimming.
Mark Anthony Barriga was out to prove his doubters wrong.
That’s because he didn’t get his slot outright. In fact, he lost in the qualifying event.
The 19-year-old Barriga bowed to Beijing Olympic champion Zou Shiming in the 2011 World Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan. The event offered 10 Olympic slots — allotted to the eight quarterfinalists and two fighters who lost in the round of 16 to the eventual gold and silver medalists.
Zou went on to bag the gold, and Barriga went on to claim the Olympic slot.
In London, the young pugilist from boxing hotbed Panabo showed flashes of brilliance in beating Italy's Manuel Cappai 17-7 but was defeated by Kazakhstan's Birzan Zakhypov 17-16 in the next rouund.
Zou won the gold.
There has apparently been a significant improvement for the national archers since the acquisition of a Korean coach, who brought in new and better ideas, plus new and better equipment for the Filipinos.
Rachel Ann Cabral is one of the beneficiaries of the training and gear brought in by 1992 Barcelona Olympics silver medalist Chung Jae Hun.
Part of the team that embarrassingly bowed out in the early rounds of the Southeast Asian Games last year, Cabral said recently that Chung has helped straighten things out for the national team, especially with the more modern bows and arrows that he has brought from Korea.
The 27-year-old Cabral did not disappoint Chung as she qualified for the London Games with a fine performance in the World Championships last month in Utah. That was just a month since Chung’s arrival in the Philippines.
Cabral defeated Lya Solano of the Dominican Republic, 6-4, but lost to Leidys Brito of Venezuela, 6-2, in the next round. Cabral beat compatriot Edwina Delos Reyes, 7-1, in the battle for ninth place and earned a slot in London.
At the Lord's Cricket Grounds in London, however, Cabral was stopped in the round of 32 by Inna Stepanova of Russia, 1-7.
A top mountain bike rider, Daniel Caluag crossed over to BMX.
He also crossed over from the US to the Philippines.
Caluag is part of the Lindsey Wilson College team that placed third in the 2011 USA Cycling Collegiate Mountain Bike Nationals and back-to-back dual slalom winner in the 2010 and 2011 Mizzou Cycling Mountain Race.
The 25-year-old Caluag, who traces his roots to Bulacan, made it to the men’s elite quarterfinals of the 2012 BMX World Championships in May at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham.
Caluag was the first rider to see action in the Olympics since the 1992 Barcelona Games, where road cyclists Norberto Oconer and Domingo Villanueva took part.
At the London Velopark, Caluag took a spill in the first heat and placed fifth. The next four were tidier races, but he placed even lower and failed to book a spot in the quarterfinals.
Lifting steel plates and iron bars is light work it seems for Hidilyn Diaz. The heavier ordeal, apparently, was the long wait to be confirmed for the 2012 London Games.
The 21-year-old Zamboanga native didn’t get the outright ticket when she placed fourth in the 58-kg division of the Asian Championships in the summer, but her lift of 217 kg turned out to be better than others aspirants in various continental qualifying events, enough for her to be finally included in the London start list of the women's 58-kg division.
“I’ve worked hard to get this far. I’m ready to compete,” said Diaz, who had been torn between continuing her studies and pursuing her Olympic dream.
Diaz, ranked ninth in the world in her division, returned to the Games as a qualifier after getting a free ticket as a wild card in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
She lifted 97 kg in the snatch but failed in her three attempts to lift 118 kg in the clean and jerk in London.
Steeplechase specialist Rene Herrera, champion in the Southeast Asian Games for 10 years, ran a different event in London — the 5,000 meters.
While it isn’t his pet event, the 33-year-old from Guimaras competes at the Olympic Park entered the race in high spirits after a recent silver-medal finish in the 5K in a Hong Kong meet just before going to London for the pre-Games training camp.
In London He clocked a personal best 14 minutes and 44.11 seconds in the preliminaries, eclipsing the 14:51 he did in a victorious run in the 2011 Philippine National Games in Bacolod City last year.
However, that was the slowest in the field of 42.
Mo Farah of Great Britain, winner of the 10,000m, completed a long-distance double by ruling the 5,000m in 13 minutes and 41.66 seconds.
Tomohiko Hoshina is not a newcomer in Philippine sports.
The high school teacher in Tokyo, whose mother is from Bulacan, had actually bagged silver for the Philippines in the Southeast Asian Games in 2007.
Although he has improved through the years by competing in top European tournaments, it wasn’t evident in the SEA region after he missed the 2009 Games in Laos and when the SEA Games Federation scrapped his weight division, the plus 100 kg, in the 2011 meet in Indonesia.
In the 2012 London Olympics, however, the 25-year-old Hoshina suffered a quick loss in the first round.
South Korean Kim Sung Min won by ippon over Hoshina after only one minute and five seconds of the six-minute heavyweight contest at ExCel London.
Mark Javier had trained his sights on a better showing after falling short the last time in Beijing, but wound up falling at the same stage in London.
In Beijing, Javier was seeded 36th after shooting 654 in the ranking round featuring 64 archers from 37 nations. That score set up a meeting in the round of 64 with No. 29 Kuo Cheng Wei of Chinese Taipei, but the Filipino fell just short, 102-106.
He finished fifth in the men’s division of the individual recurve event in the World Championships recently in Utah, earning a spot in the Olympics because several competitors who placed higher have already previously booked tickets to London.
Seeded sixth, Javier defeated Jan Rijavec of Slovenia, 7-3, then scored a 6-2 win over Bjarne Marius Laursen, conqueror of Filipino Paul Marton Dela Cruz in the previous round.
Javier was nipped by Elias Malave of Venezuela, 6-5, in the quarterfinals, but had the best score among those who were eliminated in that phase to take fifth spot.
In London, however, Javier took a 1-7 beating at the hands of American Brady Ellison in their head-to-head, round of 32 match.
Just a couple of years ago, Jessie Khing Lacuna was a kid who swam like a man, dominating his age groups, then shattering a men’s national record.
Now 18, he entered the big stage where the biggest of big men compete — the 200-meter freestyle was Michael Phelps’ event, although the American recently dropped it from his program. All of a sudden Lacuna feels like a kid again.
“Syempre ibang-iba, malaki na yung kalaban, ‘mama’ na talaga, wala nang age limit,” said Lacuna, remembering how tough it was during the 2010 Youth Olympics, where he made the final eight and thinking how much tougher it will be in the London Games.
During the Singapore national age-group tournament, Lacuna broke Miguel Molina’s national record in the 200-meter freestyle by clocking one minute and 50.90 seconds.
In London, Lacuna couldn't match that time and wound up finishing in 1:52.91 to place fifth in a field of seven in the heats and missed qualifying for the semifinals of the event where only the top 16 swimmers with the best times qualified.
Skeet shooter Brian Rosario had proven he can match the minimum qualifying scores for the Olympics - six times in the last four years - except that he made it in unofficial qualifying events for the quadrennial games.
It was enough, however, for the national shooting federation to pick him over three other top shots for the one wild card awarded to the country for the London Olympics.
The 30-year-old Rosario had hit 122 of 125 targets in one national tournament and made 120/125 in several international competitions.
At the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich, however, Rosario faltered early with a 19 in the second round en route to a 110 total, good for only 31st in a field of 36.
Vincent Hancock of the US retained the title he won in Beijing with a 148 total that included a 25 in the final.