OLYMPIC  DARLING  IN  THE  MAKING?

Athens (Via Globe Telecom),  August 12, 2004  (STAR) By Joaquin Henson - She could be the next Christine Jacob or Akiko Thomson. Jaclyn Pangilinan certainly has the looks to make heads turn like Jacob and Thomson. And judging from her records, she has the swimming ability to make waves, too.

Jacob represented the Philippines in four events at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics while Thomson swam at the 1988 Seoul, 1992 Barcelona and 1996 Atlanta Games. Both are now popular TV personalities.

Pangilinan, 18, is the only rose among the thorns in the countryís swimming team at the Athens Olympics. The other tankers in the Philippine contingent are Miguel Molina, Miguel Mendoza, James Bernard Walsh and Timmy Chua.

Pangilinan makes her Athens debut in the 100-meter breaststroke heats Sunday morning at the Olympic Aquatic Center. If she survives the eliminations, Pangilinan will swim in the finals that afternoon. She returns to action Wednesday morning in the 200-meter breaststroke heats. The finals in the event are scheduled in the afternoon.

Last Friday, Pangilinan ended her pre-Olympic training by clocking 1:12 in the 100-meter breaststroke and 2:34.16 in the 200-meter breaststroke at the Conoco-Phillips Summer National Championships in Palo Alto, California. Both were personal highs and surpassed the times that qualified her for the Olympics.

"She felt good about her races because she competed at the height of her training, not being tapered and rested," said Pangilinanís father Florante in an e-mail to The Star the other day. "She now has a week to rest and taper before swimming her first event in Athens on Sunday."

Pangilinan booked a ticket to Athens in the 200-meter breaststroke by timing 2:35.01 under the B category qualifying mark of 2:35.99 at the USA Spring National Championships in Florida last February. She also qualified for the 100-meter breaststroke by clocking 1:12.82 at the US National Championships in College Park, Maryland, in August last year.

The world record in the womenís 100-meter breaststroke is 1:06.37 held by Jones Leisel of Australia. Hui Qi of China and Amanda Beard of the US share the world record of 2:22.99 in the 200-meter breaststroke.

Early this year, the Dallas-born Pangilinan visited the Philippines for the first time and competed against national tankers in a San Pablo meet. She swept the 50-meter and 100-meter breaststroke and 200-meter individual medley events. The only event where she didnít win the gold was the 100-meter butterfly.

Philippine Amateur Swimming Association (PASA) training director Anthony Lozada said an untapered Pangilinan was impressive in San Pablo, clocking 1:13 in the 100-meter breaststroke despite jet lag. Lozada said Pangilinan is definitely a Southeast Asian (SEA) Games gold medal bet. The SEA Games record in the event is 1:11.36 held by Jocelyn Yeo of Singapore. Lozada said Pangilinan has already swum 1:11 at practice.

Pangilinanís father Florante, 57, was born in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, and earned a commerce degree at the University of Santo Tomas in 1966. He grew up in Roxas district, Quezon City. A certified public accountant, Florante worked at SGV before migrating to the US. He now works as a controller in a division of the New York advertising company Saatchi & Saatchi.

Pangilinanís mother Audrey is an American of Syrian descent. Her parents met while they were employees at Kidde, Inc. in Clifton, New Jersey, in 1981 and were married four years later.

Pangilinan is one of four children. She has two stepbrothers Robert, 31, and Emanuel, 29. Her sister Erica, 13, is also a swimmer.

An honor student at Clifton High School, Pangilinan is a freshman at Harvard University.

"I was recruited by all the Ivy League colleges," she said. "Last fall, I went on recruiting trips to Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Brown and skipped the rest. I initially liked Yale but after deliberations with my parents, we decided on Harvard because it carries a better brand and recognition in the business world where I intend to be in the future. The Ivy League colleges do not give academic or athletic scholarships. Harvard admits its students blindly without regard to their financial capacity making its policy Ďneed-based.í"

Pangilinan said he was invited to join the national team for the SEA Games last year but her application for dual citizenship was approved late.

"I was able to get my Philippine passport in time for the San Pablo competition," she went on. "Although I made my Olympic cuts earlier, my father held my intent to become a member of the Philippine Olympic team until after the results of the Malaysian Open came out last June. My dad formally applied to PASA on June 29 after informing the USA Swimming Association of my intent to be recognized as a Philippine swimmer in all subsequent senior national events. I was allowed to swim at the US Olympic trials where I was 19th in the 100-meter breaststroke and 17th in the 200-meter breaststroke out of 60 qualifiers. The top 16 made it to the semifinals. No one facilitated my acceptance to the Philippine team."

Pangilinan said her goals in Athens are to lower her clocking to 1:11 in the 100-meter breaststroke and to 2:32 in the 200-meter breaststroke.

As for her training regimen, Pangilinan said her parents take turns driving her from their home in Clifton, New Jersey, to the pool in White Plains, New York, which is about 40 miles away.

"I swim three mornings a week and six afternoons a week for two hours each session," said Pangilinan. "In preparing for Athens, I attended morning practices in a long course pool six days a week. I also attended afternoon practices in addition to morning workouts thrice a week. I lifted and did cross-training every day while doing spin class, biking, twice or thrice a week."

Pangilinan said swimming for the Philippines in the Olympics is a rare honor and privilege.

"I feel so lucky to be given the opportunity to be a member of the Philippine Olympic team," she said. "I feel a great responsibility to represent the country. I am committed to the 2005 SEA Games Hopefully, my training at Harvard should help."


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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