Palawan bet too young for demanding fin swimming
- Gerry Carpio () - November 23, 2011 - 12:00am

PALEMBANG – The young fin swimmers from Palawan and Bulacan had their taste of international competition, and it ended the way everybody expected – except for one.

Lone female entry Danielle Faith Santos.

Santos, a 14-year-old butterfly swimmer from the Puerto Princesa National High School, surprised swimmers 10 years older and stronger when she won the last individual event of the 18-event fin swimming competition.

The lone female entry from the Philippines did the feat in 22.19 seconds to win the first and last gold of the four-man swimming team in the Southeast Asian Games.

Ranged against competitors at least five years older with as many years of training in the sport, the four Palawan swimmers – Santos and her teammates Leonardo Angelo Sabellina III (14), Matthew Earl Rodriguez (15) and Franz Garett Baaco (15) – and 21-year-old Mike Godoy from Bulacan were out of the medal tally until Santos won the gold on the final day.

Vietnam, which had a fin swimming program in place for the 2003 SEA Games which it hosted, and host Indonesia shared all the gold medals with only one going to Thailand and the Philippines.

Advocates of the sport believe one of the great appeals of fin swimming is that fin swimmers don’t have to be good swimmers. There is some evidence that top flight swimmers may make poorer fin swimmers than well-trained fin swimmers because the training for the latter is more rigorous and land-based.

A fin swimmer’s training program involves more dry-side training, including core stability, plyometrics and weight training.

The young Filipino first timers were just too young to compete at the SEA Games level – a reason Santos’ feat came as a surprise. The weight alone of the fins – 3.5 kilos on the average – exacts heavy toll on young boys and girls without land training. Fin swimmers in the surface events don’t use their arms, only their legs with their arms thrust forward.

Parents of the four swimmers had noted that their children experienced sores in their feet because of the weight they had to carry on their feet.

A big plus could be if the swimmer is a butterfly specialist, since he is already trained in the basic forward movement, which simulates the undulation of the butterfly style.

Although they had been using fins as part of their butterfly training, the teenage fin swimmers never had the chance to use monofins or bi-fins which are the heavier type. They got to wear the monofins and bifins only during the trials last February. After that, when they were taken into the national pool, fin swimming federation Marian Reyes had to purchase the materials, which cost at least $1,000 each. They were able to purchase a set for each participant with the support of former Quezon City Mayor and now House Speaker Sonny Belmonte.

They had only three months to train for the SEA Games, of which they spent one month in Jakarta to train under Indonesian coaches.

Godoy, the oldest at 21, was the best finisher, placing fourth in the 800m surface event in 7:32.65, over one minute behind the winning time of 6:44.41 of 27-year-old Hans Yosaputra of Indonesia.

The edge distance between him and the first placer is about 157 meters or the equivalent of three laps in a 50-meter pool.

Rodriguez finished sixth in the 100m surface event in 44.65 seconds and Sabellina 44.68 in the 100m surface won by Vietnamese Nguyen Trung Kien, 22, in 36.94 seconds.

The standard time per lap (50 meters) is 21 seconds, with the world record set at 20.91.

Godoy failed to reach the finals in the 200m surface won by Kam Apostle Petrol, 25, of Indonesia in 1:24.60.

In the women’s 200m surface, Santos did not start. The event was won by Indonesian Angeline Sogianto, 23, in 1:38.07.

Franz Garett Baaco and Rodriguez finished seventh respectively in the 100m bifins behind Nut Wessasarta, 21, of Thailand in 44.37.

Baaco competed in the 400m surface, Sabellina in the men’s 50-m surface and Santos ended the Filipinos campaign with her participation in the women’s 50m surface.

The Philippines had no entry in the men’s and women’s 800m surface and 4x100 surface relay, and the women’s 100m surface and 100m bifins.

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