KUALA LUMPUR: James Deiparine came tantalizingly close in giving the country its first swimming gold medal in the 29th Southeast Asian Games late Friday, losing a close battle in the men’s 100-meter backstroke finals at the National Aquatic Center pool here.
Under the radar after qualifying eight and last in the heats earlier in the day, Deiparine stormed out of lane 8 and took the lead, much to the surprise of the rest of the field, inspired likely no end by the presence of parents, who watched their son perform from the stands.
The 23-year-old Washington State native seemed headed for the gold medal until Gagarin made one last-ditch effort in the final five meters in ruling the event in one minute and 01.76 seconds, relegating the Filipino swimmer to the silver medal in 1:02.11.
Still, it was the best performance thus far for the small PH swimming squad, which has been settling for bronze medals courtesy of Jasmine Aklhaldi and Roxanne Yu.
Misfortune continued to hound two-time Olympian — yet out-of-shape — Jessie King Lacuna, who finished fourth in the men’s 400 individual medley finals in 4:27.06
A graduate of the California Polytechnic State University, Deiparine might just end PH swimming’s gold-medal drought in the last day of the swimming meet on Saturday after topping the men’s 50-meter backstroke heats in 28.53 seconds, slightly off his national mark of 28.22 seconds.
Also booking their places in the finals starting at 7 p.m. tonight were Jasmine Alkhaldi and Nicole Marie Oliva.
Making most of the time she has left in her swimming career, the 24-year old Alkhaldi qualified in the women’s 100-meter butterfly (1:02.38), 200-meter freestyle (2:05.62) and 50-meter freestyle (26.04).
Filipino-American Oliva placed second in the women’s 200-meter freestyle heats in 2:04.12 and could figure in the tight race with Indonesia’s Raisa Dewi, which ruled the heats in 2:04.13.