JAKARTA – What would be the fate of the Philippine swimming team without Miguel Molina?
A sport which has been in a turmoil due to squabbles involving its national association leaders and parents of the athletes, swimming will be hard pressed to match its previous showings in the Southeast Asian Games when the Molina-orphaned squad plunges into action at the Jakabaring Complex in Palembang.
The US-trained Molina, who easily became one of the most bemedalled Pinoy athletes in international meets, won’t be competing for the Philippines this time.
Since starting competing in the SEA Games in 2003, the product of University of California Berkeley, collected 11 gold medals, including four in 2007 in Thailand, three in Manila in 2005 and two in Vietnam in his inaugural showing in the biennial meet. He won two more gold medals in Laos in 2009.
A two-time Olympian, Molina opted not to participate in the 2011 SEA Games and a chance for a third Olympic stint in 2012 in London after retiring from the sport early this year.
Another swimmer who decided not to see action this year is Filipino-American Daniel Coakley, who teamed up with Molina and several others in the gold medal winning relay team in 2009.
Without Molina and Coakley competing and the state of Philippine swimming divided by politics, the tankers face an even tougher challenges in the SEA Games. One of the teams to watch in the Indonesian meet is the Singaporean swimming squad, which collected 14 gold, eight silver and 11 bronze medals two years ago in Laos.
Led by 2006 Asian Games gold medalist Tao Li, who also won four gold medals in the 2005 SEA Games and the most bemedalled athlete in Thailand Games two years after, Singapore is the heavy favorite in fin swimming.
In 2009, seven of 11 debuting swimmers won gold medals for Singapore.
Tao won a bronze in the 100-meter butterfly and followed up with a silver in the same discipline in 50 meters, while Sheng Jun captured a bronze in the 1500-meter freestyle at the Swimming World Cup in Singapore recently.
The chances of the Philippine swimmers are not very encouraging.
Winner of 12 gold medals in the last two SEA Games events, the Philippines will have a modest goal of winning only two gold medals this time, according to coach Pinky Brosas during their last public guesting at the PSA Forum.
Leading the tankers’ bid are Ryan Arabejo, the country’s best bet in its gold-medal bid. The other members of the squad are Johanssen Aguilar, Banjo Borja, Jose Joaquin Gonzales, Jessie Lacuna, Lee Anderson, Charles Walker, Kendrick Uy, Jasmine Alkhaldi and Dorothy Grace Hong.