PH languishes behind SEAG foes

By Gerry Carpio, The Philippine Star

Posted at Aug 08 2012 03:36 PM | Updated as of Aug 08 2012 11:36 PM

LONDON – As China, the US and Great Britain continued their showdown for Olympic prominence, and Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia broke into the medal column, the Philippines goes into the last six days of competition holding the last three cards -- a long jumper, a 5000 meter runner and a BMX cyclist.

The Philippine camp was in hibernation Sunday and Monday and goes back into action the last six days of the 19-day quadrennial meet still hoping for a medal to show on their return trip to Manila Aug. 13.

Marestella Torres was set to compete in the preliminaries of the long jump at 7:05 p.m yesterday (2:05 a.m. Wednesday in Manila), seeking a long jump mark of at least 6.70 meters to advance to the finals Wednesday (2:05 a.m. in Manila) at the Olympic stadium of the Olympic Park.

Failure to make the top 12 among 42 entries would end Torres’ Olympic stint just like eight others who took early exits before her.

Rene Herrera, also here like Torres as a must-participant under the rules of the International Olympic Committee, will try to keep pace with the world’s fastest middle distance runners – Kenyans, Ethiopians and Nigerians – who are out to dominate the field just like they do with consummate ease in marathons in the Philippines and other parts of the world.

Herrera, the five-time Southeast Asian Games 3000 meter steeplechase champion, goes to the starting line of the 12 1/2 lap event at 10:45 a.m. Tuesday (5:45 p.m. in Manila), hoping his best time of 14 minutes, 51 seconds will place him in the middle of the pack until the finish line.

He knows that is easier said than done because the Olympic record for the event is 12:57.84 established in Beijing in 2008 by Kenya’s Kenenisa Bekele, who is back to defend his title in London.

However, Bekele will not be taking off as the solid favorite following his loss in the 10,000-meter race to Great Britain’s Mohamed Farah Saturday.

Bekele, a double gold medal winner in Beijing (5,000 and 10,000), placed only fourth in the 12-man final race in a letdown that put serious doubts on his success in the 5000m.

The plan is for Herrera to follow the leaders, which could prove to be a daunting task for the Filipino runner since keeping pace with the likes of Beyeche and Farah is like taking a slow, painful death.

‘’Sunod sunod lang. Hindi puwedeng mauna baka maubos agad. Alam naman natin ang mga kalaban, lumalakas habang tumatagal. Sa gitna lang muna at bahala na sa mga huling laps,’’ said Herrera.

The starting field of 50 runners will be divided into two groups of 25 competitors each, with the top six in each race making it to the finals. The next four with the best times complete the 16-man final cast.

In the main stage of the Olympics, defending champion China held sway in the overall race with 31-19-14 gold-silver-bronze medals, with the US right behind with 28-15-19. Great Britain, cheered by the Britons in all venues, is running third with 18-11-11.

While the Philippines has yet to gain entry to the medal rounds, Southeast Asian members Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore are already in the medal standings with performances in weightlifting, badminton and table tennis.

Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei barely missed giving his country its first gold of the Games as he bowed to China’s Lin Dan in a closely fought singles final, 21-15, 10-21, 21-19, in the Olympic badminton competitions Sunday night.

The silver is the third for Malaysia since joining the 1956 Melbourne Olympics following earlier wins, all in badminton, in the 1996 and 2008 editions.

Indonesia, another badminton power, wasted a golden opportunity when its women’s pair got disqualified for match-fixing in the group classification matches. It also bowed out of the singles early when its top man Taufik Hidayat also lost to Lin Dan, 21-9, 21-12, in the round of 16.

However, it remained infront in Southeast Asia with a silver and bronze, both in weightlifting. Behind are Thailand with a silver in women’s weightlifting, and Malaysia with its badminton silver. Singapore won a bronze in the women’s singles in table tennis.

Thailand’s medal hope now rests on Kaeo Pongprayoong who advanced to the quarterfinals with a 10-6 win over Carlos Pilataxi Quipo of Ecuador in the lightflyweight division of boxing competitions.

The Thai is fighting in the same bracket where Filipino Mark Barriga earlier lost in the round of 16 to Kazak Birshan Zhakypov.

Two other Thais were eliminated. Aradee Saylom lost in the first round of the lightweight (60 kg) to Kazakh Gani Zhailauv after a 12-12 tiebreak. Chathai Butdee bowed to Cuban Robeisy Ramirez Carrazana, 22-10, in the round of 16 of the flyweight division (52 kg).