Asian Para Games 2023: Gawilan, Bejino deliver first medals for PH

Philippine national para swimmers Ernie Gawilan and Gary Bejino produced a pair of third-place finishes on Monday, October 23, to hand the country its first medals at the start of the 4th Hangzhou Asian Para Games swimming championships at the Hangzhou Olympic Center Aquatic Arena.

Aiming to defend the first of three titles he won in the 2018 edition in Jakarta, Indonesia, the legless Gawilan clocked two minutes and 52.82 seconds in checking in third behind two formidable Chinese foes, who both swam with one arm and two legs.

Ernie Gawilan splashes his way to a bronze medal in the 4th Hangzhou Asian Para Games swimming meet Monday night at the HOC Aquatic Arena. [PSC Media pool]
Ernie Gawilan splashes his way to a bronze medal in the 4th Hangzhou Asian Para Games swimming meet Monday night at the HOC Aquatic Arena. [PSC Media pool]

Huang Xianquan clocked 2:48.34 to pocket the gold while compatriot Yang Huaqiang (2:50.73) settled for silver in the event in front of a banner hometown crowd at the ultra-modern 6,000-seat facility.

A Tokyo Paralympic Games veteran like Gawilan, Bejino , who lost one arm and one leg after being electrocuted at a young age, also had to play third wheel behind two Chinese bets, copping the bronze with a time of 1:12. 76 in the men’s 100-meter freestyle S6 finals.

He was able to foil a possible 1-2-3 Chinese, relegating Tang Qian to fourth place by a touch (1:12.85) after Tang had beaten the Filipino earlier in the heats of the stint backed by the Philippine Sports Commission.

“Hindi ko man po na-depensa ang event ko, nagpapasalamat na rin ako na nakagbigay ako ng unang medalya muli sa bayan sa Asian Para Games,” said Gawilan, who hopes to recover in time for the heats of the men’s 400-freestyle Tuesday morning.

A bright spot was the national para chess team, which opened its campaign in the 4th Hangzhou Asian Para Games on a promising note Monday as the men’s and women’s PI (physically impaired) chessers won all of their three matches in the first round of the standard events.

Competing at the Hangzhou Qi-Yuan Chess Hall, FIDE Master Sander Severino led the way in beating Mongolia’s Sundui Sonom while Henry Roger Lopez and Jasper Rom beat Thailand’s Padu Srikpadee and Yoo Khoonme, respectively.

Cheyzer Cristal Mendoza bannered the women’s squad in outplaying Indonesia’s Yuni, Cheryl Angot beat Kyrgyzstan’s Dariaa Kuraidanarova and Jean Lee-Nacita topped China’s Zhang Yue on the distaff side.

On the other hand, the players in the men’s B1 and B2 and women’s B1 posted 2-1 win-loss records in their opening round matches in the stint supported by the Philippine Sports Commission.

Edwin Villanueva was swallowed in the wake of superior opposition, winding up eighth and last in the men’s 400-meter freestyle S8 finals in a time of 6:11.28.

A double gold medalist in the last Cambodia ASEAN Para Games, Bejino finished a close second in the first heat behind China’s Tang Qian (1:12.6) and was No. 4 behind Tang and two other hometown bets, Luo Jinbiao (1:09.80) and Jia Hongguang (1:12.11), who were 1-2, respectively.

In athletics, Jesebel Tordecilla seemed awestruck in her Asian Para Games debut and lacked the proper warmup, winding up 10th and last in the women’s javelin throw F56 finals with a heave of 12.88 meters on her fifth attempt at the HSC Stadium.

“Di pa ako nakapag-warmup tapos nakita ko na lang paglabas sa dugout nandun na yung throwing chair ko. Di pa nakapag-iinit wala pa yung adrenaline ko. Bitin po,” Tordecilla, a Cambodia ASEAN Para Games silver medalist, said.

Bowing out early in his event was swimmer Muhaimin Ulag, who finished in the second heat of the men’s 100-meter breaststroke SB9 event in 1:24.25.

Meanwhile, the Asian Paralympic Committee announced that it has commissioned a new anthem which will now be used at future Asian Para Games and Asian Youth Para Games.

The anthem was composed by Indonesia’s Natalia Sutrisno Tjahja, who first worked with the AsPC at the Indonesia 2018 Asian Para Games.

It will be used when the Asian Paralympic flag is raised and lowered during the opening and closing ceremonies at the regional Games.

“I am delighted that we have a new anthem for use in our Games. The Asian Para Games is the largest para-sport event in the world after the Paralympic Games and it is fitting therefore that it has its own anthem. It’s always emotional when the Asian Paralympic flag is raised, tomorrow will be even more so as our new anthem is played,” AsPC President Majid Rashed stated.

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