Undeterred | Inquirer Sports

Undeterred

Positive COVID cases fail to dampen spirits of Paralympians, who are ready for battle in Tokyo
By: - Reporter / @junavINQ
/ 04:02 AM August 23, 2021

The Paralympics symbol lights up the Odaiba waterfront in Tokyo, Japan, with the Rainbow bridge in the background. —AFP

The country’s delegation to the Tokyo Paralympics, hoping to add to the success of Filipino Olympians, have landed safely in Japan and are “in high spirits” despite having to leave behind an athlete and a few coaches and officials who tested positive for COVID-19.

“They have cleared all the safety and health protocols, all continue to be in high spirits,” said Team Philippines chef de mission Francis Diaz, dean of the University of the Philippines College of Human Kinetics.

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According to Philippine Paralympic Committee president Michael Barredo, a para athlete and some coaches and officials have been in isolation and were not able to make the flight to the Japanese capital on Sunday.

“It is unfortunate for us to inform the public that some officials, coaches and a para athlete of our Philippine delegation bound for Tokyo to participate in the 2020 Paralympic Games have tested positive for COVID-19,’’ said Barredo in a statement. “They are currently isolated pursuant to health protocols to contain the virus and to aid them in their recovery.’’

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“Those who tested positive did not join the delegation anymore,” Diaz said. “The fight goes on, definitely.”

The names of the positive cases were not disclosed.

Flag-bearers

Wheelchair racer Jerrold Mangliwan will be the flag-bearer during the opening ceremony on Tuesday while swimmer Ernie Gawilan has been tasked to wave the national colors in the closing rites on Sept. 5.Other para athletes who qualified to the Paralympics are taekwondo jin Allain Ganapin, discus thrower Jeanette Aceveda, powerlifter Achelle Guion and swimmer Gary Bejino.

“Despite the setback, we are confident that our athletes will give their best in the pursuit of their Paralympic dreams and to bring honor and glory to our country,’’ said Barredo.

The Paralympians go to battle inspired by the performance of the country’s Olympians, who completed the best performance by the country in the Summer Games, with weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz winning the Philippines’ first Olympic gold medal.

Source of inspiration

Team Philippines also brought home a pair of silvers and a bronze courtesy of the boxing squad.

Francis Diaz said the performance of the Olympians has been a source of inspiration for the Paralympians.

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First to see action in the Games are Bejino and Guion, on Aug. 26. Bejino will compete in the men’s 200-meter individual medley SMG in swimming while Guion will hunt for a medal in women’s -45 kilogram in powerlifting.

On Aug. 27, it’s the turn of Gawilan to compete in the men’s 200m IM SM7 and Mangliwan in the men’s 400-m T52 wheelchair race.

Gawilan, the country’s triple-gold medalist in the 2018 Asian Para Games, will likewise swim on Aug. 29 (400m freestyle S7) and Aug. 30 (100m backstroke S7). Bejino returns to the pool on Sept. 2 (men’s 50m butterfly S6 and 400m free S6) and Sept. 3 (100m backstroke S6).

Mangliwan will be back on the track for the 1500m T2 race on Aug. 28 and men’s 100m T52 on Sept. 2 while Aceveda competes on Aug. 31 (women’s discus throw).

Ganapin is scheduled to show up on the mat on Sept. 3 in the men’s -75kg K44 category.

Meanwhile, Tokyo Paralympics organizers said on Sunday they were tightening virus rules, including upping testing and further limiting movement, as Japan battles a record wave of infections days before the opening ceremony.

Year-long delay

The Games open on Tuesday after a year-long pandemic delay and following the Olympics, which ended on Aug. 8 and was hailed by organizers as proof their virus rules worked.

Olympic organizers have reported 547 cases linked to the Games since July 1, but there are already 131 cases among Paralympics participants with two days until the opening ceremony.And Japan has reported more than 25,000 daily cases nationwide in recent days, even with multiple regions including Tokyo under virus states of emergency.

Paralympics participants, like their Olympic counterparts, are governed by so-called playbooks that mandate mask-wearing, daily tests for athletes and limits on movement.

But Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto said on Sunday “taking further careful measures is necessary.”

—WITH REPORTS FROM DENISON REY A. DALUPANG and AFP INQ

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