PH para athletes undaunted by elite rivals in Tokyo

<p>Wheelchair racer Jerrold Mangliwan and discus thrower Jeanette Aceveda <em>(Contributed photo)</em></p>

Wheelchair racer Jerrold Mangliwan and discus thrower Jeanette Aceveda (Contributed photo)

TOKYO – Wheelchair racer Jerrold Mangliwan and discus thrower Jeanette Aceveda are undaunted by the elite opposition they will be up against in their respective events in the World Paralympic Games here.

“Ang umaaayaw ay hindi magwawagi. Kaya hindi tayo umaayaw (He who gives up will not win. So we will not give up),” said Mangliwan, who was struck by polio at the age of 2, spiced by some colorful language in Filipino that was unfit to print that drove home his resolve and determination to do well.

“Kung titignan natin yong record nila (ang kalaban), malakas po sila. Pero malakas din po tayo (We will look at the records of our opponents, they are strong. But we are also strong),” echoed Aceveda of the sentiments of her fellow athlete in an interview last Monday inside the Athletes Village.

The tall and stocky Aceveda, who won three golds in the 2013 Asean Para Games in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, was keenly aware of the challenges facing them in their stint fully supported by the Philippine Sports Commission.

“Salang-sala na po yan sa bansang pinanggalingan nila so battle of the champions na po yan. Eh, hindi po tayo susuko (They are the best from their countries, so that’s already a battle of the champions. But we will not give up),” said the 50-year-old mother of three who manages three massage therapy clinics in different malls in Marikina.

Mangliwan, who was the Philippine contingent’s standard-bearer during the opening ceremonies at the Japan National Stadium Tuesday night, will be the first to see action between them on Friday in the T52 men’s 400-meter race, with the heats scheduled in the morning and the finals in the evening.

His coach Joel Deriada believes that the 2016 Rio Para Games veteran of reaching the finals of the first of three events if he plays his cards right.

“Nakita na namin yong record ng kalaban ni coach Joel kaya nakita namin may malaking pag-asa ako makapasok sa event na to (We have already saw the records of our opponents, so we have a good chance in this event),” Mangliwan said. “Yun ang pinaka-goal ko is to make it to the finals po talaga. Kung makuha ko po yung goal ko na yon, all out na po doon (My goal is to make it to the finals. Once I get it, I’ll give all my best).”

The wheelchair racer’s other events are the men’s 1,500-meter race on Saturday and the 100-meter sprint, beginning with the heats on Sept. 2 and the finals on a succeeding day.

“Bali gusto din po natin makapasok sa finals. At siyempre po, manalo. Ibibigay namin yong best namin (I also wanted to enter the finals. And of course, to win. We will give our best),” said Aceveda, who suffered a degenerative disease at the age of 3 that has left her technically blind in both eyes.

Compounding the discus thrower’s situation is the fact that under the International Paralympic Committee and World Para rules, she will be performing blindfolded to block out whatever feeble light that some athletes might still perceive as means of equalizing the playing field.

Thankfully, Aceveda will have plenty of time to hone her technique together with coach Bernard Buen since the F11 women’s discus throw finals won’t be until Aug. 31 at the Japan National Stadium.

Both athletes said they were quite comfortable with their quarters and gave the thumbs-up to the food served at the two-storey Athletes Village dining hall, which is open round-the-clock to serve the over 4,000 athletes and officials from 163 countries taking part in the Tokyo Para Games.

Mangliwan said he was still trying to accustom himself to the automated self-driving buses that move around the locations within the Athletes Village. The movements of the vehicles are monitored by computers and video cams by assigned personnel along with the designated bus stops.

“Medyo magulo dahil walang driver pero masasanay rin kalaunan (I’m a little bit confused because there is no driver, but I will eventually get used to it),” he said.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Paralympic Committee released an official statement Tuesday, announcing that para-powerlifter Achele “Jinky” Guion won’t be able to compete in the Games after testing positive for Covid-19 together with her coach, Antonio ”Tony’’ Taguibao.

``Jinky is deeply frustrated that she will not be able to compete in her powerlifting event for her country after training for so long, and especially getting much inspiration from Hidilyn Diaz, a powerlifter like herself and the first Filipino to win an Olympic medal,’’ PPC president Michael Barredo said.

Other members of the delegation who tested positive for Covid-19 are Chef de Mission Francis Diaz and para-athletics coach Joel Deriada.

Barredo took over as chef de mission in the absence of Diaz to implement tasks involving planning, logistics, and communications, among others, for the team’s orderly navigation in the Paralympics.

``Despite this most unfortunate development, all our para-athletes remain in high spirits and committed to giving their best possible performances to bring honor and glory for our country. Tuloy ang laban. Mabuhay ang atletang Pilipino (The fight will continue. Long live Filipino athletes),’’ said Barredo, who will likewise function as the head of the delegation of Team Philippines. (PR)