NAY PYI TAW – Olympic swimmer Jasmine Alkhaldi topped the 100-meter freestyle to give Team Philippines a rare bright spot on an otherwise bleak day in the 27th Southeast Asian Games at the Wunna Theikdi Pool.
The 20-year-old University of Hawaii student got off to a fine start, faltered a bit prior to the turn but found the finishing kick in passing Singapore’s Ting Wen Quah and Amanda Xiang Qi Lim to the finish.
The London Olympian clocked 56.65 seconds, a bit slower than her 56.57 in the morning heats, but still more than enough to beat Quah’s 56.74 and Lim’s 57.21.
The victory, which goes well with wins by Sinag Pilipinas in men’s basketball and light-flyweight Josie Gabuco in boxing’s semifinals, also eased the sting of teammate Matt Navata’s fourth place finish in the 400m individual medley and the string of heartaches Team Philippines suffered earlier in the day.
Before the evening finals, the Filipinos generally floundered with only three bronze medals to add to their overall tally, an effort that looked miniscule when ranged against the surges being made by their regional rivals.
Myanmar continues to hold sway in the overall standings with 20 gold medals, with Team Philippines 16 behind.
That’s why the too-few and far-between victories posted by Alkhaldi, the men’s basketball team and Gabuco are being savored to the fullest.
Ronald Pascual scored 18 points and Rey Mark Belo 17 as the Philippine cagers thumped Myanmar, 118-43, for their third straight win and gave them momentum going to the crucial Friday match against fellow unbeaten Thailand, 80-67 winner over Cambodia earlier.
Gabuco carved a lopsided 40-36, 40-34, 40-34, 40-36 victory over Sornka Chantavonsra of Laos to advance to also avert a boxing shutout for the day as flyweight Maricris Igam and bantamweight Irish Magno lost their respective semifinals bout.
The win enabled Gabuco, who won the 2011 pinweight gold, to join featherweight Nesthy Petecio in the finals.
Woodpushers 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.
Aside from the prayers of its countrymen back home, Team Philippines got a more up close and personal form of a morale-booster Thursday.
Ambassador Alex Chua made the rounds of the Philippine quarters here, in Yangon and Ngwesaung Beach before proceeding to Mandalay to watch the women’s football game between the Malditas and Vietnam Friday.
The Filipinos sure look like they need all the help they could get, what with the generally bleak picture drawn Thursday that started with the news of two-event defending champion Iris Ranola receiving news of her father’s death back home.
According to BSCP secretary-general and billiards delegation head Robert Mananquil, Ranola will still see action in the 9-ball singles which she won in 2011 along with the 8-ball singles.
Wrestlers Alvin Lobrequito, Jhonny Morte and Joseph Angana could only settle for the bronze, leaving Jason Balabal, silver medalist in the Greco-Roman 84kg class and competing in Friday’s freestyle final, as the lone Philippine hope trying to avoid a gold shutout in the sport.
Better results are also expected elsewhere 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.
Karateka Orencio James Virgil delos Santos takes part in individual kata while teammate Eugene Stoner Dagohoy vies in men’s 84kg kumite.
Men’s 100m freestyler Jessie Khing Lacuna, 100m breastroker Joshua Hall and individual medley specialist Navata try their luck in the morning heats, hoping to make it to the evening finals.
Weightlifter Jeffrey Garcia also sees action in the 62kg final.
Light-flyweight Mark Anthony Barriga, flyweight Rey Saludar, bantamweight Mario Fernandez, lightweight Junel Cantancio, light-welterweight Dennis Galvan and welter Wilfredo Lopez also gun for places in the finals.
Galvan tangles with Ericok Amonopunyo of Indonesia, Barriga faces Mohd Faud Mohd Reuvan of Malaysia in the light flyweight class, flyweight Rey Saludar battles Mg Nge of Myanmar, bantamweight Mario Fernandez clashes with Tran Quocc Viet of Vietnam, lightweight Junel Cantancio fights Muhamad Ridhwan Ahmad of Singapore and welterweight Wilfredo Lopez collides with Alex Tatantos of Indonesia.
Paddler Hermie Macaranas and kayaker Alex Generalo plunge back into action in the men's C1 200m and K1 200m, respectively, eager to make up for their medal-less finishes Thursday.