Gawilan, Mangliwan, Bejino look forward to 2024 Paris Paralympics

Screenshot from PSA Forum

Ernie Gawilan, Jerrold Mangliwan and Gary Bejino all agreed their Tokyo Paralympics experience boosted their morale in future tournaments despite failing to bring home a medal.

The three para athletes said the lessons they’ve learned in their Paralympics participation go beyond the competition.

“Bago pa lang yung competition, may mga challenges kaagad, so natuto kaming mag-adjust at magtiwala sa sarili,” said wheelchair racer Mangliwan when he guested in the Philippine Sportswriters Association Online Forum.

Mangliwan was referring to the PH team’s pandemic experience, where seven delegates including three athletes tested positive for COVID-19 and were unable to see action in Tokyo.

The remaining three – Gawilan, Mangliwan and Bejino – poured all their best efforts to their events not only for personal glory but also for their fellow delegates who were struck with the virus.

In Mangliwan’s case, he relied on virtual meetings and help from other members of the PH delegation after his coaches tested positive for the virus and were unable to accompany him in his events.

His best finish among his three events was sixth, and he was looking forward to qualifying again to the 2024 Paris Paralympics.

“Sa event ko, age doesn't matter kasi kaya hindi ako humihintong mangarap manalo ng medal. Back to the drawing board ulit,” Mangliwan said.

Gawilan, a two-time Paralympic swimmer, said the daily saliva test for the virus added more challenge but it only strengthened their mental resolve.

“Doble yung kaba kasi hindi lang yung competition yung iniisip mo. Dun sa araw-araw na test, iniisip din namin kung may COVID ba kami o wala,” said Gawilan.

Despite these, Gawilan was able to improve his performance in the 2016 Rio Paralympics by advancing to the final in the men’s 400-meter freestyle S7 and posting a better time in his men’s 200m individual medley SM7.

Fellow para swimmer Bejino, the youngest of the remaining three athletes, is already looking forward to qualifying for the 2024 Paris Paralympics.

“Yung taas ng level ng competition, hindi siya nagpababa ng morale para sa akin. Mas ginanahan pa nga akong mag-training ulit para makasabay ulit sa kanila sa susunod,” said Bejino.