NAY PYI TAW, Myanmar: What was a gold medal for the Philippine swimmer Jasmine Alkhaldi in the 2013 Southeast Asian Games turned to bronze on Friday.
The London Olympics veteran took the gold in the women’s 100-meter freestyle final but the medal was recalled by the Games organizers after her victory came under protest.
A re-swim was ordered and Alkhaldi finished third for the bronze.
Junkrajan Natthanan of Thailand took the gold and Quah Ting Wen of Singapore the silver.
In the first race, Natthanan finished fourth, and Ting came in second. Another Sinagaporean, Amanda Xiang Qi Lim, was third.
It could have been the first gold medal of the 20-year-old University of Hawaii standout in an international competition, and the first swimming gold by a Filipina since Akiko Thomson won in the 1995 SEA Games.
But technical officials forfeited Alkhaldi’s victory, following a protest filed by Thailand Swimming Association (TSA).
The TSA claimed there was a false start, prompting Thai swimmer Jenjira Srisa Ard to momentarily hesitate. Srisa Ard swam on only after realizing that the race had not been stopped.
Officials asked Alkhaldi to return her medal after the awarding ceremonies and ordered a re-swim late Friday.
In a letter addressed to U Naw Taung, chairman of the Sports and Rules Committee of Myasoc, Philippine chef de mission Jeff Tamayo sought for a reversal of the decision to forfeit Alkhaldi’s win.
“There was no concrete or written explanation citing violations or infringements of FINA Rules regarding the issue has been formally rendered to date; how was the decision for a re-swim reached?” Tamayo wrote.
FINA is the international federation governing swimming competitions.
In a separate letter, Philippine Swimming, Inc. President Mark Joseph requested Tamayo to push through with the protest, saying stripping Alkhaldi of the gold violates the principle of fair play.
Based on FINA rules, a re-swim can only be called if there is a tie.
“The settlement of Thailand’s protest by calling for a re-swim is simply out of order,” said Joseph in a two-page letter from Manila.
National swimming coach Carlos Brosas is not optimistic about the outcome of the Philippine appeal. The best-case scenario, he said, is for the organizers to call off the re-swim pending the result of the investigation.
He also hinted that Singapore —a powerful swimming country which is gunning for a sweep in the Games—could be behind the controversy.
Brosas said he was advised by the present FINA technical official, Woon Sui Kut, a Singaporean, not to protest “because further protest to the jury will not only prosper and the decision will not be overturned.”
“The guys that really run the show, the bigwigs so to speak, are Singaporeans,” said Brosas.