Ernie Gawilan wins PH’s first gold in Asian Para Games
MANILA, Philippines–Ernie Gawilan pulled off a golden breakthrough for the Philippines, assertively keeping the men’s 400-meter freestyle S7 title at the 4th Asian Para Games in Hangzhou, China.
Gawilan bounced back from a bronze effort in the men’s 200m individual medley the previous day with a triumphant clocking of four minutes and 58.29 seconds at the Hangzhou Olympic Center Aquatic Arena.
“It’s a rare achievement to win the first gold for your country. I’m happy that I was able to accomplish this,’’ said Gawilan.
Singapore’s Soong Toh Wei arrived way behind the valorous Filipino para swimmer from Davao City in 5:12.16 for the silver while Huang Xiangquan of the host nation settled for the bronze in 5:16.33.
Gawilan’s gold is the first for Team Philippines backed by the Philippine Sports Commission after wheelchair racer Jerrold Mangliwan seized a silver in the men’s 100m T52.
Gary Bejino and Gawilan, both Tokyo Paralympics veterans together with Mangliwan, grabbed a pair of bronze medals from the pool on Monday.
According to national para swimming coach Tony Ong, the strategy for Gawilan was to size up his rivals early before powering his way at the halfway mark of the race.
“I told Ernie that our goal was to go for the gold and not the record. That was our mindset all along. Thank God, he was able to execute the plan,’’ said Ong.
Meanwhile, Cambodia Asean Para Games quadruple gold medalist Angel Mae Otom finished a distant fourth in the women’s 200-meter freestyle S5 finals with a time of 3:32.34.
Otom’s teammates, Marco Tinamisan (men’s 100-meter freestyle S4) and Roland Sabio (men’s 200-meter IM SM9) failed to go beyond their respective heats.
Veteran powerlifter Achelle Guion missed out on a podium finish, winding up in fourth place with a lift of 83 kilos in the women’s -45-kilogram division.