TOKYO – Swimmer Gary Bejino struggled in his Tokyo Paralympic Games debut on Thursday, finishing dead last among six entries in the second heat of the men’s SM6 200-meter individual medley event and exited early at the Tokyo Aquatic Centre here.
The first Pinoy campaigner to plunge into action, Bejino seemed awed by the moment as he clocked three minutes and 17.9 seconds in the heats, 34.12 seconds behind Colombia’s Nelson Crispin Corzo, a Rio Para Games double silver medalist, who led seven others into finals with a time of 2:43.07.
He also placed last among the 17 swimmers who saw action in the race, a lackluster showing that coach Tony Ong attributed to the pressure and nerves felt by the 23-year-old athlete after his opening stint in the quadrennial sportsfest for the cream of para-athletes in the world.
“First time ni Gary to be in the Paralympics and he is still young, masyado ding pressure sa kanya na yung first event (ng team) sa kanya. I still need to talk to him about it so he can settle down for his successive events,” Ong noted.
The coach said that while Bejino did well in the 50-meter butterfly leg of the event, overall, they still lacked enough time to prepare despite the month’s workout they had at the Philippine Science High School indoor pool.
Ong was hopeful that his ward would be able to redeem himself in his three remaining events: the men’s 50-meter butterfly on Aug. 30, 400-meter freestyle on Sept. 2, and 100-meter backstroke on Sept. 3.
Stepping up to the plate next for the PH Paralympic squad are swimmer Ernie Gawilan and wheelchair racer Jerrold Gawilan, who will compete on Friday in the stint supported by the Philippine Sports Commission.
Both veterans of the 2016 Rio Para Games, Gawilan dives into the pool in the men’s SM7 200-meter individual medley race at 10:03 a.m. (9:03 a.m. in Manila) in the first of three heats where the top eight advance to the finals at 6:22 p.m. (5:22 p.m.)
Mangwilan, who was the country’s flag-bearer during the opening ceremonies of the meet last Monday, wheels into play in the T52 men’s 400-meter run also in the opening heat 10:43 a.m. (9:43 a.m. in Manila) at the Japan National Stadium. The top three finishers from each of the two heats plus the two next fastest wheelchair racers among the 13 entries will complete the eight-man cast in the finals scheduled at 10:16 pm. (9:16 p.m. in Manila).
A native of Tabuk, Kalinga, Mangwilan, 41, vowed to dedicate his race not only for the country but also for his coach, Joel Deriada, who was left back home after testing positive for COVID-19 on eve of the team’s departure for the Japanese capital.
“This one is for my coach. Naiwan man siya, pagbubutihin ko talaga na makapasok sa finals at makapagbigay ng karangalan sa bansa. Para kay coach Joel din itong takbong ito,” he said.
Deriada said from Manila that the athlete was in high spirits and was eager to perform well in the event where he also reached the finals in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil five years ago.
“I told Jerrold that there are some things that we might not understand but to use what happened to me as added motivation to do his best,” said the coach, who was with the athlete in Rio, and disclosed that he has tested negative for the virus in a succeeding test.
“Dapat huwag siyang (Mangliwan) panghinaan ng loob. We may not understand why this happened, but I believe that it will be for the good of all of us,” Deriada said without a hint of regret.
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