CLOSE WIN FOR GOLD. Wheelchair racer Jerrold Mangliwan (right) nips compatriot Rodrigo Podiotan Jr. for the gold medal in the men’s 100-meter T52 race in the 11th Asean Para Games at the Manahan Stadium Monday in Surakarta, Indonesia on Monday (Aug. 1, 2022). The Philippines bagged five gold medals on the first day of competition. (Photo from Team Philippines)

SURAKARTA – Filipino para-athletes were off to a promising start Monday on the first hectic day of action in the 11th Asean Para Games with five golds–three from swimming and two from athletics – at the Manahan Stadium here and at the Jatadiri Sports Complex pool in Semarang.

Swimming delivered the country’s first pair of gold medals in the 11th Asean Para Games Monday as Ernie Gawilan and Roland Sabido splashed their way to the top of their respective events in the 11-nations sportsfest featuring the top para-athletes in the region.

Gawilan, a triple gold medalist in the 2018 Jakarta Asian Para Games, kicked off the Philippine campaign by ruling the men’s 400-meter freestyle S7 in a time of four minutes and 54.87 seconds. Afterwards, Sabido and Arnel Aba led a 1-2 finish in the men’s 400-meter freestyle S9 clocking 5:09.40 and 5:14.13, respectively, much to the delight of the small Pinoy crowd at the pool led by Philippine Paralympic Committee president Mike Barredo.

Naging maganda po ang swim ko sa unang event. Sana magtuloy-tuloy po ito (I swam well in my first event. I hope to sustain it),” said Gawilan, 31, who won a pair of golds and silvers in the regional meet for para athletes held in Kuala Lumpur five years ago.

“Medyo nakakaalis ng nerbiyos dahil nanalo na. Hopefully, madagdagan pa po (I felt relieved because I won already. Hopefully, I can win more),” added Gawilan, who missed competing in the 2017 Malaysian edition since his class was not included in the meet after securing two golds and one silver in the 2015 Singapore Asean Para Games.

In the afternoon, Angel Otom added swimming’s third mint in a memorable Asean Para Games debut in ruling the women’s 50-meter backstroke event in a time of 41.68 seconds in the stint sponsored by the Philippines Sports Commission.

Veteran thrower Cendy Asusano added the third gold in early morning action in ruling the women’s javelin throw F54 with a heave of 13.72 meters.

“Masaya po ako kasi hindi ko akalain na makukuha ko yung ginto sa unang bato pa lang (I’m happy to win the gold right on my first throw),” said Asusano, hoping to duplicate a golden treble she achieved in the 2017 Games, with the discus and shot put still scheduled in the succeeding days.

Team captain Jerrold Mangliwan regained his men’s wheelchair 100-meter T52 title with a victorious time of 19.18 seconds.

A Tokyo Paralympic Games veteran, Mangliwan led a similar 1-2 PH finish in the event after being challenged by newcomer Rodrigo Podiotan Jr., who placed a strong second and settled for the silver medal.

Two-time Asian Para Games silver medalist Achelle Guion was forced to play second fiddle in the women’s 45-kilogram division of powerlifting with a hoist of 70 kilos behind hometown bet Ni Nenga Widiasih, who took the gold with a lift of 97 kilograms.

Also contributing a bronze medal each for athletics were Joel Balatucan, Daniel Enderes Jr., Arman Dino, and Jesebel Tordecilla in the men’s shot put F55, men’s 5,000-meter T20 race, men’s 100-meter T47 race, and women’s discus throw F55, respectively.

Swimming also contributed another bronze in the 4x100-meter freestyle relay while veteran powerlifter Marydol Pamati-an also had bronze in the women’s 41-kg class with a lift of 70 kilos.

Overnight, table tennis also made its modest medal contribution with two bronze medals in the men’s team Class 4 through Billy Cartera, Racleo Martinez, and Darwin Salvacion and in the men’s class 8 doubles courtesy of Jobert Lumanta and Jayson Ocampo.

Counting the silver in men’s 3x3 wheelchair basketball last Sunday, the Filipinos now boast an early overall medal tally of five gold, four silver, and nine bronze medals.

The country’s standard-bearers aim to surpass the haul of 20 gold, 20 silver, and 29 bronze medals, good for fifth overall, in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur in 2017. (PR)