By Kristel Satumbaga
Mental toughness is as important as staying in top physical shape for Paralympic swimmer Ernie Gawilan, whose participation in the ASEAN Para Games and the Tokyo Paralympics has been halted due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Gawilan was among the many differently-abled athletes who have been training since mid last year for the ASEAN Para Games, only for the event to get postponed due to technical reasons and a second time on account of the global health crisis.
The second postponement was indefinite, becoming one of the many sporting events around the globe affected by the outbreak.
Even the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics has been pushed to next year, two months after Gawilan earned a berth.
The 28-year-old Davao native didn’t mind the postponement, though, but admitted it has been months since he last trained at the pool.
“Sa ngayon po hinahanap na po talaga ng katawan ko yung tubig pero tinitiis ko lang para na rin sa kaligtasan ko,” said Gawilan, a 2014 Asian Para Games medalist.
“Pero kailangan din pong hindi tayo panghinaan ng loob, lahat naman po kasi ng araw may kanya-kanyang kalagayan. Malay po ninyo, magkaroon ng gamot sa COVID-19 kaya para po sa akin, malaki po ang ginagampanan ng utak at puso ng tao.”
Gawilan, who competed in the 2016 Rio Paralympics, said he underwent quarantine as a precaution after arriving from Manila to Samal Island last month. He has been doing dry training in his house since then, especially now that Samal Island has been on lockdown.
Born with underdeveloped extremities on both legs and left limb, Gawilan focuses on strengthening his core and muscles.
He does not think much about the postponed competitions or the lack of training in the pool, saying that those are things not under his control.
“Nakakapanghinayang pero positive lang po. Marami pa naman pong pagkakataon at medyo mahaba pa naman po yung time para makapag-ensayo,” Gawilan said.
“Bawi na lang po kapag okay na ang lahat.”
Apart from monitoring their physical health, the Philippine Sports Commission is also concerned of the athletes’ mental well-being by posting the contact numbers of its sports psychologists on their social media accounts for their easy access.