Guided by his coach, Jerrold Mangliwan reached the final of wheelchair racing during the Rio de Janeiro Olympics five years ago.
With that coach grounded at home by a positive COVID-19 test, Mangliwan will have added motivation as he tries to get the Philippines in contention for a medal in the T52 men’s 400-meter race on Friday at Japan National Stadium.
“This one is for my coach. Although he was left behind in Manila, I’ll push myself to qualify for the finals and give honor to our country,’’ said the 41-year-old Mangliwan, the designated flag-bearer during the opening ceremony of the Games, where the finest para athletes in the world are competing. Mangliwan’s race starts at 9:43 a.m.
Swimmer Ernie Gawilan also sheds off his robe on Friday as he competes in the first qualifying heat of the men’s 200m IM SM7 (9:02 a.m. Manila time) at Tokyo Aquatics Center, where teammate Gary Bejino was weighed down by the breaststroke leg of the 200-meter individual medley SM6 on Thursday.
Bejino who kicked off the Philippine campaign in Tokyo, wound up last in the second of three heats, clocking three minutes and 17.9 seconds for an early exit in the sapping four-stroke race.
His time was 34.12 seconds behind 2016 Rio Paralympics double silver medalist Nelson Crispin Corzo of Colombia, who topped the eight qualifiers in the afternoon finals.
“We were not happy in the breaststroke leg. Gary didn’t have enough time to do breaststroke workouts and that resulted in a slower clocking,’’ said coach Tony Ong.
“We quite lacked the training and preparation needed for Gary to be at his peak,’’ said Ong, pointing out that his ward did well in the butterfly, backstroke and freestyle segments of the race.
The Philippine Sports Commission had booked Bejino, a two-time gold medalist in the Asean Para Games, for a month’s training at the indoor pool of Philippine Science High School in preparation for the Games.
“This is his first time in the Paralympics and he’s still young. He was the first to compete from the team and it put pressure on him. I need to talk to him about it, so he can settle down for his other events,’’ added Ong.
The 23-year-old Bejino, whose right arm and left leg were amputated by doctors after an electrocution accident at the age of seven, aims for a better showing in his next three events—the men’s 50m butterfly on Aug. 30, 400m freestyle on Sept. 2 and 100m backstroke on Sept. 3.
Until then, all eyes will be on Gawilan, a triple-gold performer in the 2018 Asian Para Games, who is hoping to swim one of the eight fastest times in the three heats to qualify for the finals, where anything can happen in the battle for a podium finish.
Mangliwan has been booked in the opening heat of his race, where the top three from each of the two heats plus the two next fastest among 13 wheelchair racers will secure spots in the finals later in the evening (9:16 p.m. Manila time).
His coach, Joel Deriada, was forced to stay at home after testing positive for COVID-19 prior to the team’s departure for Tokyo last Sunday.
“I told Jerrold that there are some things that we might not understand [and he should] use what happened to me as an added motivation,’’ said Deriada, who revealed that he yielded a negative result for the virus in his next test.
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