Filipino paralympic athletes continue to ignite positive changes in societal perceptions as they are set to compete at the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Summer Paralympic Games.
The 2020 Tokyo Summer Paralympic Games scheduled to take place from August 21 to September 5, enabling persons with disabilities to showcase their athletic talent, will feature sports such as Archery, Athletics, Badminton, Boccia, Canoe Sprint, Cycling Road, Cycling Track, Equestrian, Football 5-a-side, Goalball, Judo, Powerlifting, Rowing, Shooting, Sitting Volleyball, Swimming, Table Tennis, Taekwondo, Triathlon, Wheelchair Basketball, Wheelchair Fencing, Wheelchair Rugby, and Wheelchair Tennis.
Since the Philippines’ paralympic games debut at the 1988 Summer Paralympics in Seoul, the nation’s paralympic athletes proved actions in five categories — Athletics, Powerlifting, Sailing, Swimming, and Table Tennis.
Two of its noteworthy achievements come from Adeline Dumapong, who bagged the bronze medal in the powerlifting competition at the 2000 Sydney Paralympic Games, making her the first-ever Filipino paralympic athlete Olympic medalist; and Josephine Medina, who also bagged a bronze medal in the Table Tennis competition at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympic Games.
For the 16th edition of the multi-sport event for athletes with disabilities, here are the six paralympic athletes qualified to compete and showcase their athletic talent at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Paralympics:
Ernie Gawilan (Swimming)
The 30-year-old swimmer from Pacquibato District in Davao was born with underdeveloped extremities. His legs and left arm were underdeveloped.
In 2000, his interest in swimming flourished while working as a housekeeper at a training center in Samal Island. He was then discovered by swimming coach Mark Corpuz who paved the way for him to join a swimming team. In 2008, he had his first swimming competition at the 2008 Philippine Olympic Festival in Cagayan de Oro and finished second. Gawilan’s potential was recognized by a PWD national swimming team member and persuaded him to join the roster. Since then, Gawilan has been competing at numerous para competitions, including the 2014 Asia Para Games in South Korea where he bagged three bronze medals, 2018 Asia Para Games in Indonesia, where he earned the nation’s first-ever gold in the men’s 200-meter individual medley, 2015 ASEAN Para Games in Singapore, and 2016 Summer Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
After completing the review classification race in the 2021 World Para Swimming World Series at Berlin, Germany, last June, where he finished fifth in the 100-meter breaststroke race and was classified under the SB7 category — swimmers who have an amputation of one arm and with significant restrictions across the hip, knee, and ankle joints, Gawilian was qualified to compete at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Paralympics. He will compete in the 400-meter freestyle, 100-meter backstroke, and 200-meter individual medley events.
Gary Bejino (Swimming)
At seven, para swimmer Gary Bejino lost his right arm and left leg. But suffering such impairment at an early age did not stop the tanker from pursuing his sporting dreams. He then launched his swimming career in 2007.
Some of his noteworthy achievements include bagging a bronze at the Para Swimming World Championships in London and a silver at the 2018 Asian Para Games in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Bejino booked his ticket to the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games through a bipartite slot and will compete in the men’s S6 200-meter individual medley and 400-meter freestyle, 100-meter backstroke, and 50-meter butterfly events as he makes his debut paralympic appearance.
Allain Ganapin (Taekwondo)
The taekwondo practitioner from Marikina City underwent a life-saving operation at birth which prompted the amputation of his right arm. His notable achievements include bagging a bronze at the 2017 Oceania Para-Taekwondo Championship in New Zealand and competing at the 2017 World Taekwondo Championships in South Korea.
Though bagging a bronze at the Asian Taekwondo Paralympic Qualification Tournament in Amman, Jordan, last June did not secure him a spot for the upcoming Paralympic Games, his bipartite invitation from the World Taekwondo Federation and International Paralympic Federation did. A bipartite slot is granted to para-athletes who applied for an alternative qualification method after missing the qualification chance due to “extraordinary circumstances.”
Ganapin makes history as the first Filipino para-athlete to compete at the Taekwondo event in the Paralympic Games. He’s the second paralympic athlete to secure an Olympic slot at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Paralympic Games. He will compete in the Men’s K44-75kg divisions where athletes have unilateral arm amputation or loss of toes which impact the ability to lift the heel properly.
Achelle Guion (Powerlifting)
The 49-year-old powerlifter from Manila started her powerlifting career in 2003. She then obtained an impairment after suffering from polio.
Guion has been raising the Philippine flag in several paralympic competitions, including the 2012 Summer Olympics in London where she placed sixth, 2014 Asian Para Games in Incheon where she bagged a silver in the women’s -45kg event, 2017 World Para Powerlifting Championships in Mexico City where she placed eight, and in the 2018 Asian Para Games in Jakarta where she bagged a silver in the women’s -45kg event.
Guion punched her ticket to the 2020 Tokyo Summer Paralympic Games after the World Para Powerlifting and International Paralympic Committee approved her bipartite application. She will be competing in the women’s 41kg event, making this year’s paralympic games her second paralympic stint after the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
Jerold Mangliwan (Athletics)
The 41-year-old wheelchair racer was diagnosed with polio at two years old, which later caused his paraplegia impairment. He then started his racing career in 2009.
Some of his notable achievements include representing the Philippines in the 2014 Asian Para Games in South Korea, the 2015 ASEAN Para Games in Singapore where he bagged a silver in the 400-meter T52 race and double gold at the 100-meter and 200-meter T52 race, and his recent paralympic appearance at the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Mangliwan booked his ticket to the 2020 Tokyo Summer Paralympic Games alongside Jeanette Aceveda after qualifying through the minimum qualifying standard and the International Paralympic Committee’s minimum entry slot for Athletics.
Jeanette Aceveda (Athletics)
The Filipino discus thrower was born partially blind and was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa. Introduced to throwing events in Athletics at the Ephpheta Foundation of the Blind, Aceveda built trust and confidence in herself, transcending beyond her disability.
She has been a pioneer of para competitions, joining numerous events, including the 1st PHILSPADA competition in Cebu back in 1997, where she bagged a triple gold for shot put, javelin, and discus throwing, 2006 Asian Para Games where she won a silver and double bronze, and 7th ASEAN Para Games in Myanmar where she bagged a double gold and bronze medal.
Aceveda competes under the F11 category for para-athletes with low visual acuity and/or no light perception.
She punched her ticket to the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games through a bipartite slot and will compete in the women’s F11/12 discus throw as she makes her debut paralympic appearance.
The country’s paralympic athletes who are set to compete at this year’s Tokyo Summer Paralympic Games capture not just the Filipino pride in the sports industry but more so their ability to defy all barriers and spark positive changes in societal perceptions of equality.