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    Team Philippines down to four medal hopes

    Aug 3, 2012

    FILIPINO-Japanese judoka Tomohiko Hoshina went down in defeat faster than he could say “domo arigato,” leaving Team Philippines down to only three men and a woman as it struggled pitifully in the face of powerful opposition in the 30th Olympic Games.

    From an original cast of 11 athletes, only boxer Mark Anthony Barriga, long jumper Marestella Torres, BMX rider Danny Caluag and 5,000-meter runner Rene Herrera remain standing for the Philippine team, which continued to take it on the chin deep into the opening week of the world’s biggest sporting event.

    The latest to fall was Hoshina, who lost to South Korean Kim Sung-min by “ippon,” never recovering from a thud with barely one minute and 05 seconds gone in the six-minute duel in one of the most lopsided matches for the day.

    “He’s too good for me,” said the 25-year-old Hoshina through an Olympic interpreter, the smile on his face that has endeared him to his teammates now missing. “That’s judo, you either win or lose.”

    The gold medal went to Teddy Riner of France, who made it finally after settling for the bronze four years ago in Beijing after opponent Alexander Mikhglin of Russia failed to recover from conceding early penalties in their finals showdown at ExCel arena.

    “The depth of the opposition is too much for most of our athletes. But this is the Olympics where the best always have the last laugh,” said Team Philippines chief of mission Manny Lopez. “But in fairness to our guys, they gave their best.”

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    The only bright spot in the campaign so far is the first-round win of boxer Mark Anthony Barriga over Manuel Cappai of Italy , 17-7, on Tuesday, which came like a whiff of fresh air to along-suffering  national squad that needs a big win in this Games like crazy.

    Gone ahead and possibly luxuriating in the charms and splendor of this city by now are archers Mark Javier and Rachelle Cabral, swimmers Jasmine Alkhaldi and Jessie Lacuna, weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, and skeet shooter Brian Rosario, all of them failing to make it past the preliminaries.

    Barriga fights Birzhan Zhakypov of Kazaksthan in a round-of-16 match on Saturday afternoon at the ExCel Center.

    Next week, it’s the turn of Barriga, Torres and Herrerra to carry the heavy load for Team Philippines, which is trying to end an embarrassing run of scoreless finishes that began in the Sydney Olympics (2000) and continued in the Atlanta (2004) and Beijing (2008) Games.

    Sadly, only Caluag, presently ranked among the top 10 BMX riders in the United States and the only Asian in a stating cast of 32, is the closest thing to a podium finish.

    Torres, vying in her second Olympics, and the rookie Herrera would be lucky if they make it to the next round, considering that  their personal best pale in comparison with those of the favorites in their respective events.  

    “It’s really tough (winning a medal) in the Olympics. But who knows? Alam mo naman ang puso ng Filipino. Laban naman tayo hanggang sa huli,” said Lopez, who is also the Philippine Olympic Committee first vice president.

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    But at the rate things are going, it will take more than brave heart and a never-say-die attitude for the Filipinos to clinch a medal of any color that’s becoming hard, too hard, to find in this Games.

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