Swimmer with no arms becomes first PH triple gold winner in Asean Para Games
Angel Otom thrived on her maiden voyage at the ongoing 11th Asean Para Games, but the adulation she received hasn’t registered yet.
“I’m so happy, but it has not sunk in yet that I am the country’s first triple gold medalist,’’ said Otom of her achievement, which was exceptional for a rookie.
The 19-year-old pride of Olongapo City, who was born without arms, emerged as the first Filipino triple-gold performer on Thursday after scooping two more gold medals in the pool, including one that erased the previous record by a mile.
Otom’s 48.070-second golden clocking in the women’s 50-meter butterfly was nearly eight seconds ahead of Singaporean R.T. Goh’s 56.80 seconds established 17 years ago when Manila hosted the Games back in 2005.
She was so quick that Vietnamese swimmers Thi Sari Nguyen and Thi My Thanh never had the opportunity to even come close to Otom’s feet as both timed 1:14.15 and 1:32.46 for the silver and bronze, respectively.
“I just swam as fast as I could, just like what I’ve always done in practice,’’ said Otom, whose parents Marlou and Mila came all the way from Manila to personally witness their daughter on the podium.
Otom later on increased her personal gold collection to three in the women’s 50-m freestyle S5 with a clocking of 41.40 seconds and a performance that was never threatened from start to finish in the meet where the national team has been fully supported by the Philippine Sports Commission.
She first struck gold in the 50-m backstroke S5 at the start of swimming competitions on Monday.
“It’s really different when you see her compete and win. We cannot describe the feeling,’’ said Otom’s parents after seeing her in action for the first time.
Ernie Gawilan picked up his second gold medal in the men’s 200-m individual medley SM7 and broke the existing record as well in 2:49.530. The previous standard was established by Thailand’s Salungyoo Rawin (4:00.02) in the 2008 Bangkok Games.
Rookie Marco Tinamisan claimed the PH para swimmer’s fourth gold for the day in the men’s 50-m freestyle in 54.660 seconds while wheelchair racer Jerrold Mangliwan also seized his second gold medal in the men’s 400-m T5 race in 1:06.20.
The combined five gold medals in both swimming and athletics jacked up the Philippine medal standings to 19 golds, 16 silvers and 34 bronzes, just a gold short of tying its 2017 Kuala Lumpur overall output of 20 gold medals.
Tokyo Paralympian Gary Bejino came up short in the men’s 50-m butterfly S6 event in 35.440 seconds behind the golden effort of Thailand’s Aekkharin Noithatto (35.30) and added another silver in the men’s 50-m freestyle (34.40).
Judokas Russel Cundangan and Mary Ann Taguinod likewise got silver medals in the J1-J2 women’s team event at the week-long sportsfest featuring the best para athletes in the region.