PART OF THE Philippine Para Team for Asian Para Games in Hangzhou, China — PHILIPPINE SPORTS COMMISSION

THE PHILIPPINE team sets out to surpass, if not replicate, its 10-gold, 11th-place performance in the last Asian Para Games in Jakarta, Indonesia five years ago as it goes up against the best in the region in the Hangzhou, China edition set Oct. 22 to 28.

The first batch of the 176-strong delegation, which is mostly composed of the proud and determined chess squad, left the country yesterday with a stopover from Hong Kong before proceeding straight to Hangzhou.

There, the Filipinos hope to eclipse, if not match, their 10-gold, eight-silver and 11-bronze medal haul in Jakarta where they finished a strong 11th out of 43 countries in the region.

Leading the Filipino chessers are Darry Bernardo and Cheyzer Mendoza, who delivered five and four mints, respectively, in last May’s ASEAN Para Games in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Also in the James Infiesto-mentored group is FIDE Master Sander Severino a former world champion for woodpushers with physical disability who accounted for four of the five gold the country won in Jakarta.

While citing chess and swimming as the major gold medal prospects anew, Mr. Barredo said not to be overlooked are the other disciplines like cycling powerlifting, which also delivered medals in the previous Games.

“We may also see a golden breakthrough in athletics through wheelchair racer Jerrold Mangliwan and rookie thrower Andrei Kuizon, who did well in the Cambodia ASEAN Para Games,” he noted.

It will also mark the first time that the national men’s wheelchair basketball team will represent the country in the sportsfest, Mr. Barredo pointed.

“Our wheelchair basketeers will face tough challenges in Hangzhou. But like Gilas Pilipinas — who knows — they may surprise us all. The fact that they will be there is an achievement in itself,” he said.

“My position is always for our athletes to match or do better than our previous performances, that is always the target,” said Philippine Paralympic Committee (PPC) President Mike Barredo.

“Our national para athletes have worked just as hard, if not harder, to compete in the Asian Para Games so I pray that our compatriots give them their all-out support as they gave our national athletes,” said Mr. Barredo as the first batch of the Hangzhou-bound campaigners left  yesterday.

Philippine contingent Chef de Mission and former national swimming standout Ral Rosario and deputies Millette Bonoan and Irene Soriano-Remo left over the weekend to prepare the way for the Nationals, whose stint is supported by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC).

“We would like to express our gratitude to the PSC and Chairman Richard Bachmann for the government sports agency’s continued support for our participation in the Asian Para Games,” Mr. Barredo said.

The PPC honcho said that he was “guardedly optimistic’’ about the chances of the Filipino bets, who will bid to surpass the medal haul 10 gold, 8 silver and 11 bronzes, winding up 11 overall in the third edition held in Jakarta, Indonesia in 2018.

While he showed high hopes in chess and swimming, Mr. Barredo is optimistic that cycling, powerlifting as well as athletics.

“We may also see a golden breakthrough in athletics through wheelchair racer Jerrold Mangliwan and rookie thrower Andrei Kuizon, who did well in the Cambodia,” he said.

But generally, chess could end up bringing home the most gold again although Mr. Infiesto sees a stronger challenge than in Jakarta.

“We just try to do our best and be better,” said Mr. Infiesto. — Joey Villar