Blind twins hope to represent PH in 2020 Tokyo paralympic games
Being a triathlete is hard but being a blind triathlete is even harder.
However, blind twins Joshua and Jerome Nelmida of Alabang, Muntinlupa City remain undaunted as they continue to pursue their dream of representing the Philippines as triathletes in 2020 Tokyo Paralympic games.
Born on August 4, 2000, the twins are currently Grade 11 students at the Philippine National School for the Blind in Pasay City.
On Saturday, both Joshua and Jerome were recognized for their perseverance in their sport during the White Cane Safety Day event in Quezon City.
They are set to fly to Legazpi, Albay this week for another Asian Paratriathlon Championship. If they win, they will be qualified to compete in the Tokyo Paralympic games.
The twins’ mom, Annette, told INQUIRER.net that the two were born blind because of a premature retina.
The twins were born 30 weeks earlier than the expected due date and were not expected to live longer than 48 hours after they were born.
However, Annette said their family entrusted the lives of the twins to God.
The twins did survive but it wasn’t easy. Just 29 days after they were born, they already underwent surgery.
Then they had to be confined at the Philippine General Hospital in Manila for three months for more eye surgeries.
During one operation, Joshua stopped breathing for about five minutes, forcing the doctor to stop the surgery.
“Andoon ako sa operating [room] and nakita ko yung doctor hawak na si Joshua sa chest niya, pagkatapos bigla siyang nagsalita na ‘stop the operation,’” Annette said. “[P]agkatapos ang dami na niyang kinuha na gamit hanggang sa nagkagulo na sila doon.”
She recalled how the doctors handling the operation asked Annette to leave the operating room. After a few minutes, Joshua was brought out of the operating room but had tubes attached to his tiny body.
Annette said for a week, she and her husband Rick had to touch any part of Joshua’s body just for him to move and breathe again.
Annette is thankful that the twins overcame their health issues but admitted that it had not been easy raising two blind children with what she describes as “unmanageable behavior.”
“Takot sa tao, nagwawala na yan, iiyak nang iiyak, naglulumpasay sa sahig na halos hindi mo mahawakan na kung ano na nangyayare sayo, nasasabunutan ka na,” she remembered.
“As in kung makikita mo yung ibang disabled na talagang sasabihin niyo na ‘ay ano ba naman yang batang yun’ ganun yung anak ko, ganun sila ka-unmanageable,” she added.
Despite the many challenges they faced, the twins shone in the field of sports.
Joshua and Jerome won several medals since they started joining swimming competitions in 2009.
The blind athletes also won medals since they began competing in triathlons in 2013.
Triathlon is a multisport that involves running, swimming, and biking. Out of the three sports, the twins struggled the most with biking.
“Sobrang hirap sa umpisa kasi hindi mo pa alam kung paano gagawin yung triathlon lalo na sa bike, tapos kulang sa gamit or whatever at kung saan pa, pero kahit po gaano kahirap, basta kaya ko ito. Yun ang iniisip namin, kaya ko to,” Joshua said.
He said he and his brother never thought of giving up their passion for sports despite their blindness.
He said they draw strength from their family and supporters from the Resources for the Blind Inc., the Parent Advocate for Visually Impaired Children, among others.
“Iyong ginagawa namin hindi lang para sa buong blind community kung hindi para rin sa country,” Joshua said.
Joshua’s twin Jerome said they always motivate each other, reminding each other that they are fighting for the Philippines.
“Sinasabi namin na kaya natin ito, kahit anong mangyare, manalo man o matalo, basta ano lang, para naman sa Philippines yung gagawin natin eh,” Jerome said.
Jerome recalled the time when he competed for the Asian Paratriathlon Championship last year.
He recounted the series of unfortunate events he encountered: his bike chain snapped four times; he misplaced his hydration bottle, and his pedal also broke off.
However, he continued to finish the game “for the country.”
“I want to prove na kaya kong tapusin yung game para sa bayan kahit na ang daming nangyaring hindi maganda sa game. Alam ko kasi sa sarili ko na kaya ko kaya tinuloy ko pa rin,” Jerome said.
Joshua mentioned that bringing pride to the country is a big dream for the both him and his brother.
Despite being totally blind, it gives them a sense of pride to be able to represent the country.
Aside from being able to join the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, the twins also dream of studying in the University of the Philippines for college.
Joshua said that he dreams to be a choir conductor and to sing with the Madrigal Singers. On the other hand, Jerome wants to become a broadcast journalist someday.
When sought for their advice for people with special needs, they said: “Kakayanin natin kung ano man yung gawin natin sa iba’t ibang larangan. Hindi lang naman sa triathlon yun eh, kahit sa ibang larangan din eh. Kaya naman natin.” /vvp
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