PH para-swimming team satisfied with Tokyo Paralympics performance

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 7) – The Philippine para-swimming team is satisfied with their performance in the Tokyo Paralympics despite missing a medal finish from the seven events where the two swimmers competed.

Ernie Gawilan, who became the first Filipino swimmer to advance in a Paralympic final, said he was proud of his results despite the team’s lack of training time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Iba talaga ang level ng competition sa Paralympics. Ginawa ko po ‘yung best ko. Sila (the competition) talaga, nag-research,” said Gawilan during the virtual Philippine Sportswriters Association forum.

[Translation: The level of competition in the Paralympics is very different. I performed my best there. They really did their research.]

Gawilan finished sixth in the 400-meter freestyle S7 finals with a new season best time of four minutes and 56.24 seconds.

Philippine para-swimming team head coach Tony Ong said Gawilan kept up with his competitors, as the swimmers in the 400-meter freestyle event tallied faster times in the Paralympics than in other international meets.

“Bumanat agad si Ernie talaga ng langoy. Minax-out niya ‘yung 400 (meters) so talagang ubos last 100 (meters). After the swim, nag-uusap kami ni Gary (Bejino) na coach, si Kuya Ernie nakahawak na sa pader,” Ong recounted after Gawilan’s swim in the 400-meter freestyle preliminaries.

[Translation: Ernie gave everything in his swim. He maxed out in the 400 meters so he was really drained in the last 100 meters. After the swim, I talked with Gary (Bejino), and he said Ernie was already leaning against the wall.]

Ong added that Gawilan was able to pace his swim in the finals, but the other swimmers were stronger due to their sufficient training time before the Paralympics.

The Davao-born swimmer also tallied a new personal best time in the 200-meter individual medley S7 preliminaries, where he fell short of one spot in advancing to the finals. He also failed to progress into the finals of the 100-meter backstroke S7 category.

Bicolano swimmer Gary Bejino shared that he learned many things despite not making it to the medal race of his four events, a feat he made in his Paralympic debut.

Bejino said he will focus on improving his techniques and mindset, especially in higher levels of competition.

“Kailangan kong sipagan ‘yung techniques, breathing pattern, at sa swim styles ko rin [I need to work hard to improve my techniques, breathing pattern, and swim styles too],” said Bejino.

Bejino competed in the 200-meter individual medley, 400-meter freestyle, 50-meter butterfly, and 100-meter backstroke S6 events.

Ong hopes that their Tokyo Paralympic experience will encourage the government and private sector to give more support to national athletes with disabilities.

“I think whole year round, their opponents kept training amid the pandemic. We need more training and if the strength and conditioning (coaches) will come in, it will be okay. I believe we can already win the Paralympic gold,” said Ong.