THE 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo saw Team Philippines have it rough, with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) greatly affecting its campaign.
The quadrennial sporting meet for the differently abled officially ended on Sunday, but the country’s reduced athlete contingent wrapped up its bid by Friday sans a medal to show for.
In his assessment of the Filipino para-athletes’ campaign in the just-concluded Games, Philippine Paralympic Committee (PPC) President Michael I. Barredo said a “confluence of events beyond anybody’s control due to the COVID-19 pandemic” took a heavy toll on the country’s campaign.
“While we went through the exercise in participating in the Paralympic Games, we were affected by the circumstances of COVID-19 in the areas of training, preparation and actual participation. We were pretty much hit by it,” Mr. Barredo said in a statement.
Prior to leaving for Japan for the Aug. 24 start of the Paralympics, some members of the team tested positive for the virus, including para-powerlifter Achelle Guion, which immediately ruled her out for her event, and chef de mission Francis B. Diaz.
Then blind discus thrower Jeanette Aceveda and para-athletic coach Bernard Buen, who were fully vaccinated, both tested positive in Tokyo and had to be quarantined, depriving Ms. Aceveda the chance of being the first visually impaired Filipino athlete to compete in the Games.
The last blow was when taekwondo jin Allain Ganapin also tested positive, forcing the athlete and his coach Dindo Simpao to stay in Manila.
“We were all shellshocked (by these developments). So, it is really very hard to give an honest assessment given these difficult conditions and circumstances. This edition is for the books,” said the PPC chief.
The remaining three athletes — wheelchair racer Jerrold Mangliwan and para-swimmers Ernie Gawilan and Gary Bejino — tried their best to give the Philippines something to cheer about despite the tough luck that befell the team, but largely could not get the breakthrough they were angling for.
“[Credit to the three athletes] for giving their best under these trying circumstances. I believe Ernie and Jerrold did pretty well while Gary is still a greenhorn who can strive to do better in future international competitions,” Mr. Barredo said.
Veteran Paralympic athletes Messrs. Gawilan and Mangliwan gave the Philippines its finest moment in Tokyo on Aug. 29 when they posted personal bests to place sixth in the finals of the men’s 400-meter freestyle-S7 event and men’s 1,500-meter-T52 race, respectively.
Moving forward, Mr. Barredo and the rest of the team expressed hope that support continues for Filipino para-athletes despite the results they had in the 2020 Paralympic Games.
The PPC chief cited collaboration between government and the private sector to set up a permanent training facility for differently abled athletes would go a long way in the steady development of their skills.
“We already had a semblance of it at the ULTRA (Philsports Complex) in Pasig City, but it was unfortunate that it was converted into a quarantine facility by the government, so we virtually lost a year’s training in 2020,” Mr. Barredo said.
Just the same, he said work continues for them as they set their sights on the next competitions.
MEDINA PASSES AWAY
Meanwhile, just as Team Philippines was wrapping up its campaign in Tokyo, the paralympic community mourned the passing of one of its noted members in 2016 Rio Paralympics bronze medalist Josephine Medina (para-table tennis) on Thursday at the age of 51.
“Ate Jo, as Medina was called, exemplified hard work and dedication to her sport that our national para-athletes can follow and look up to as an inspiration,” Mr. Barredo said. “This is what made her an exceptional athlete and champion and enabled her to win a bronze medal for the country in Rio.”
Ms. Medina, a graduate of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, broke the country’s 16-year medal dry spell in the Paralympics in Rio, winning the country’s second bronze medal after that of para-powerlifter Adeline Dumapong Ancheta in 2000 in Sydney.
She, too, was dominant on the Southeast Asian level, bagging gold medals in the 2008, 2014, 2015, and 2017 editions of the ASEAN Para Games.
Mr. Medina also brought home silvers in the 2010 Guangzhou and 2018 Jakarta Asian Para Games and a bronze medal in the 2014 Incheon edition. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo