RP  TEAM:  ATHENS  PERFORMANCE  BETTER  THAN  SYDNEY

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,  August 22, 2004  (STAR) By Lito A. Tacujan - The Philippines took stock of things halfway through the Athens Games and despite the heartbreaks and defeats in various fronts, it has somehow gained some measure of feats in the mission it has imposed on itself in this ancient Greek metropolis.

"We have already surpassed the Philippine delegation’s performance in Sydney four years ago," said Philippine Olympic Committee president Celso Dayrit.

Archer Jasmin Figueroa’s stirring stint in the women’s individual event at the historic Panathanaiko Stadium and three national records submitted by Filipino tankers at the Aquatic Center did more than enough to better the performance put up by the national squad four years ago in Sydney.

The Filipinos didn’t win a medal in the Sydney Olympics with the boxers, the very spearhead of the RP campaign, failing to win a medal for the first time in 16 years and the taekwondo jins crashing out in the Olympic debut of the event.

"With the performance of Jasmin and the three swimming records broken, we have surpassed our campaign in Sydney and hopefully we can do better in the next few days," said Dayrit.

Only five national athletes out of the lean 16-member contingent are still in the start list in boxing, taekwondo and athletics going into the final week of the greatest show on earth.

Boxer light flyweight Harry Tañamor was to face off with Korean Hoong Moo Won at 8 p.m. Saturday (2 a.m. Sunday in Manila) hoping to advance into the quarterfinals while taekwondo jins Donald Geisler, Tshomlee Go and Marie Antoinette Rivero will try to seek podium finish Aug. 26 and 28.

Athletics bets Lerma B. Gabito and Eduardo Buenavista are to compete in the long jump and marathon, respectively.

"Hopefully, we can come up with medal performances particularly from Tañamor and the taekwondo jins and Lerma comes up with a new record ," said Dayrit.

The 19-year-old Figueroa, a wild card entry in archery, provided the highlight of the Filipinos’ campaign when she shocked former world and Olympic champion Natalia Valeeva of Italy in the round of 64 and went on to earn the 27th spot, the best finish by a Filipino archer since the 1972 Munich Olympics.

The sophomore student at the University of Makati, who is to leave for home Monday with coach Henry Manalang, beat Valeeva (132-130) in a wind-swept tension-filled encounter but later lost to Spain’s Almodena Gallardo (152-150) in the round of 32.

She went on to improve on the 37th finish of Francisco Naranjilla in the old FITA format and the 58th of Jennifer Chan in Sydney four years ago in the same Olympic round event.

Figueroa’s feat also put the wild card invitees in a new perspective in the Games following her smashing triumph over Valeeva, ranked third in the world, and gave her sport a big boost back home.

"What she accomplished put the wild card entrants in new light because it shows that wild cards are not only invited for token participation. They can pull off some surprises," Dayrit said.

Earning wild card berths is an accomplishment in itself because the federations concerned have to first recognize the skills and talents of the athletes before deciding which country to be invited under this status.

"Mahirap bigyan ng wild card berths sa dami ng humingi (It’s difficult to get wild card berths because of too many requests)," he said.

The other Filipino wild card berth was shooter Jethro Dionisio who made his Olympic debut by earning enough maximum qualifying scores (MQS) in trap shooting. Swimmers Miguel Molina, Miguel Mendoza, Timmy Chua, J.B. Walsh and Jaclyn Pangilinan made it here as qualifiers under the Olympic category by eligibility.

The three swimming records were established by the 20-year-old Molina in the 200-m breaststroke and Pangilinan in the 100-m and 200-m breaststroke events.

The US-based Molina bettered the 12-year-old mark of 2:20.37 by Lee Concepcion with a clocking of 2:19.19.

Pangilinan bettered her own marks in the 100-m (1:12.47) and in the 200-m (2:33.38). Her former times were 1:12.82 and 2:35.01, respectively.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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