LONDON – In another disappointing campaign in the world’s biggest, toughest show of them all, Team Philippines will head home in a fews days holding an empty bag again and looking for answers on what went wrong in the 30th Olympic Games.
There are still three days of action remaining before this Games ends with a joyous closing party on Sunday, but this early the 11member RP squad found itself with nothing else to do but enjoy the charms and splendor of this lovely city.
It is going home with another big fat zero in a shameful stint that mirrored the disappointments of the past as BMX rider Danny Caluag went down on Thursday afternoon in the face of a high-powered opposition.
Like boxer Mark Anthony Barriga, the Filipino-American rider went into battles with modest hopes of ending an embarrasing streak of winless campaigns that began in the Sydney Olympics and repeated in the Athens and Beijing Games.
And like Barriga, Caluag proved not equal to the task, finishing last in his group in the quarterfinal action and missing to make the semifinals in a big comedown for one who spent a lot of hard work and endured pain training for this Olympics.
“It’s heart-breaking to see our athletes lose, but it’s heartwarming to see them competing proudly as a Filipino and giving their best in the Olympics,” Team Philippines chief of mission Manny Lopez, who is also the Philippine Olympic Committee first vicepresident.
`There are lessons learned, which I know will serve them well when they compete again for the country in other international tournaments like the coming Southeast Asian Games and Asian Games,” he added.
Save for Barriga and Caluag, the other Filipino athletes like swimmers Jasmine Alkhaldi and Jessie Lacuna, archers Mark Javier and Rachelle Cabral, shooter Brian Rosario, long jumper Marestella Torres and 5,000-meter bet Rene Herrera, weighlifter Hidilyn Diaz and judoka Tomohiko Hoshina were not given a chance to figure in the medal fight, considering the depth of the opposition.
True enough, the Filipino athletes fell like dominoes,with Barriga providing the only spark in the campaign by winning his first bout against Manuel Cappai of Italy in their light-flyweight clash (17-7) that had amateur boxing president Ricky Vargas and his secretary general, Pato Gregorio, flying in a hurry in time for the second bout.
The two boxing officials would later find out that they would not join Barriga to celebrate a victory but be with him in his lowest moments as the boxer lost to Kazakstan’s Birzhan Zhakipov(1817) in a controversial bout they later put under protest on the day Vargas and Gregprio arrived.
But the board of jury denied the protest faster than the Filipino camp could cry “we wuz robbed, we wuz robbed,” thus ending the saga of a young, promising boxer who had gone fom all ends of the earth training and competing for this Olympics.
“Mark won that one. He faded in the third round alright, but what really spelled the differ ence was the warning given to him. As I have said in the past, referee must not issue warning in the crucial stage of a close bout,” said Lopez, who served as boxing president for a long time.
The rest of the Filipino athletes were simply nowhere near the league of their opponents,finding themselves rolling and dying in the initial burst of heavy fire.
Lacuna (200 freestyle) and Alkhaldi (100-free)swam with a modest aim of surpassing their personal best but failed miser ably, Javier and Cabral missed their targets completely in the round of 32 and lost by one-sided scores, Diaz failed in her three at tempts in the clean and jerk in a forgettable second Olympic ap pearance and Hoshina was gone in less than two minutes.
The second week of the Games had the Filipino camp still resem bling a family mourning a death in the family as it continued to see its athletes going the way of no return.
A second-timer in the Olympics like Diaz and Javier, Marestella finished 22nd out of a starting field of 30 in the long jump, doing only 6.22 meters in a forgettable performance that left her crying and ruing herself.
Marestella said muscle pains did her in, adding she could not understand why her second Olympic stint would have to end this way given the time and effort she spent as she bidded to slay the ghost of a lackadaisical stint in Beijing four years ago.
“I saw her (Torres) train. Masipag talaga. Professional ang approach niya sa kanyang sport. I know she’ll do well. Unfortunately, she didn’t. Sayang,” swimming coach Pinky Brosas told a Team RP official.
Herrera suffered the same fate,languishing in the cellar of his heat in the 5,000-meter race that was a domain of the Africans, but finding joy later as he surpassed his personal best of 14 minutes and 51 seconds with a time of 14:44.51.