MANILA, Philippines – When Jasmine Alkhaldi was only three years old, she jumped into a swimming pool for the first time. She almost drowned.
|Filipino Olympian Jasmine Alkhaldi.
But the experience did not traumatize Alkhaldi. Instead it spurred her parents to enroll her in swimming lessons. A few years later, the half-Filipino, half-Saudi Arabian Alkhaldi had mastered the water and was winning medals in various international competitions.
Now, the 19-year-old Alkhaldi will represent the Philippines in the upcoming 2012 Olympic Games in London, participating in the 100-meter freestyle event.
“This will be my first time going to the Olympics. Medyo kinakabahan ako pero s’yempre, masaya,” she told ABS-CBNnews.com. “Not everyone can make it to the Olympics.”
“Ever since I was a kid, this was a dream – to be part of the Olympics,” she added.
Alkhaldi qualified to the London Games through her participation in the World Championships.
“We have qualifying times which they convert to FINA points. If it’s equivalent to the (standard) they want, then you make it,” she explained.
“It’s really amazing to achieve the qualifying time and to be able to be here and compete for the Philippines.”
Alkaldi, who was born in Parañaque, holds the Philippine record for the 100-m and 50-m butterfly. She won three gold medals in the Southeast Asian Age Group Championships in 2011.
For Alkhaldi, making it to the London Games is the highlight of her athletic career so far, even though she has also competed in the Youth Olympics.
“Back then, it was the closest thing I had to the Olympics, the closest feel, the closest atmosphere, the type of competition and the qualifying I had,” she told ABS-CBN News Europe. “Now that I’m here, of course, this is the highlight.”
Alkhaldi is being realistic about her chances in the London Games, however, because of her age and her relative inexperience at the Olympic level.
“Thinking of how I am, and that this is my first time, (my chances are) not so good. And I’ve been watching the Olympics since I was a kid – the people I’ve been watching ever since I was six are still there,” she said.
Still, she remains optimistic that she will have a good performance and bring honor to the country.
“I am praying and hoping na sana kahit papaano, maganda ang rank, na kahit bata ako, maganda ang rank ko,” Alkhaldi said.
“And next time, I’ll exceed their expectations and my expectations,” she added.
Alkhaldi is also thankful for the support of the Filipinos who have turned up and watched her compete abroad.
“I feel honored, especially when I win... Sometimes may mga Filipinos from other countries, they support you kahit hindi ka nila kilala. Basta you’re bring the Philippine flag and wearing the Philippine shirt, they’re there and cheering you,” she said.
ABS-CBNnews.com is coming out with a series of stories featuring the 11 Filipino Olympians starting July 17 up to the opening of the London Olympics on July 27.