CAPAS, Tarlac — ONE minute and 1.46 seconds. That was all it took to end the 10-year gold medal drought of Philippine swimming in the Southeast Asian Games.
James Deiparine ended the long dry spell on on Wednesday night at New Clark City Aquatics Center in record-breaking fashion, surpassing the old SEA Games mark set by Nguyen Huu Viet of Vietnam (1:01.60) in 2009 edition in Laos.
As the jampacked crowd inside the two-level, 2,000-seater facility went wild, Christine Jacob-Sandejas, a former national team swimmer and many-time SEA Games gold medalist, turned emotional as tears welled in her eyes.
“Naiyak na rin ako. Parang, I can’t believe it,” the former actress and television host said. “‘Cause I think, swimming has been hit hard the past few years not having been able to really bring home the golds, right?
“I guess as a swimmer, I know exactly what they’re feeling and what they’re actually going through.”
Jacob and the rest of the fans went through a roller-coaster of emotion during the swimming competition. Just moments before Deiparine bagged the gold, Remedy Rule fell two-tents of a second short of beating Jing Wen Quah of Singapore for the gold in the women's 200-meter butterfly.
“Watching Remedy actually broke my heart, knowing that she could’ve won the first gold and breaking our 10-year drought but missing it by, you know, isang kuko or isang touch, just so little,” said Jacob-Sandejas. “It’s quite heartbreaking I’m sure she feels it.”
Covering the SEA Games for CNN Philippines felt like a trip down memory lane for Jacob-Sandejas, who was once the face of Philippine swimming.
She saw action in three SEA Games (1981, 1983, 1985) and competed in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles where she swam in the 100-meter and 200m freestyle and 100m and 200m backstroke events.
“Too many memories [were brought back],” she said smiling. “Sabi ko, I think I was born at the wrong time, I should’ve been born now and to be able to swim in a fast pool and have so many records being broken.”
The 52-year-old Olympian further beamed:" “I am so proud, I am super proud. I think not only me but even the Filipinos watching, they are proud to have been able to witness history right here at home on Philippine soil. It made it so special.”
But if there's one thing that never changed, it is the Filipino fans' support of the athletes, Jacob-Sandejas said.
“I think the crowd will always be the same, no matter how many years down the road because pagdating sa Pinoy, tayo talaga ang nakiki-cheer sa isa’t-isa,” she said. “So I think the crowd is just amazing as it was in ’81 and now in 2019.”