MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Sports Commission will stand behind the Philippine Olympic Committee as it tries to reclaim the gold medal that was stripped from Pinay swimmer Jasmine Alkhaldi in the recent Myanmar SEA Games.
“I fully support the stand that we should not just sit back and accept the decision and take it as the final decision,” said PSC chairman Richie Garcia yesterday.
The 20-year-old Alkhaldi, who studies in Hawaii, won the gold in the women’s 100-meter freestyle. But she was stripped of the medal after a late protest by Thai swimmer Nathanan Junkrajang.
Thai officials claimed there was a false start, and despite objections from Philippine officials, a re-race was ordered the following day. The Thai won the gold, followed by a swimmer from Singapore. Aklhaldi went home with the bronze.
The POC, headed by its president, Jose Cojuangco, the other day said they will bring up the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sports. It may cost the POC to file the protest but Cojuangco believes they’re doing the right thing.
“We will find legal ways to get the gold medal back,” said Cojuangco.
Garcia, chairman of the government funding arm in sports, is on the same page, saying yesterday that POC officials “should bring it up to the higher-ups.”
The POC will also inform FINA, the world governing body in the sport, of its plan to file a protest before the CAS.
“It’s time to make a stand before whoever can decide on this or perhaps reverse the decision. Hindi tayo punching bag na susuntukin mo at hindi lalaban,” said Garcia.
Both Cojuangco and Garcia said they’ve never seen anything like it in swimming, where a gold medal that has already been awarded an athlete is taken back because of an alleged false start.
Garcia said race officials in Myanmar had all the time to decide on the matter even before they proceeded with the awarding ceremony. They ruled in favor of the Thai protest long after Alkhaldi had already accepted the gold medal.
“Na-award mo na, kukinin mo pa. We hope there’s a positive action on this,” said Garcia.
After the re-race was ordered, Cojuangco suggested that Alkhaldi to skip it. But the pretty Pinay swimmer was eventually told to do otherwise, returning the gold medal and joining the re-race where she finished third.
Alkhaldi showed class during the awarding, cheering on the Thai swimmer and looking at the gold medal that’s rightfully hers.