After notching first PH gold, Gawilan says he isn’t done
Ernie Gawilan fell short in defending one of the crowns he won five years ago.
But he made up for it by seizing the breakthrough gold for Team Philippines in the Asian Para Games on Wednesday, when he ruled the 400-meter S7 swimming event at Olympic Centre Aquatic Arena in Hangzhou, China. And the fabled Paralympian isn’t done yet.
“I hope to bring home three medals just like in 2018,” said Gawilan.
Gawilan also won that same event in 2018, along with golds in the 200-m individual medley (IM) SM7 and in the 100-m backstroke S7.
The SM7 and S7 categories in Para events are disability swimming classifications for athletes who have use of their arms and trunk but have limited leg function, including—but not limited to—missing a leg or parts of both legs.
Gawilan, however, fell short of his target of retaining all three golds after he lost in the 200-m IM.
“I’m very happy to have recovered from that defeat in the 200-m IM. But besides winning the 400 m, getting the first gold for our country is a rare accomplishment,” said the 32-year-old ace from Davao.
Lacking both legs and having an underdeveloped left limb, Gawilan finished with a gallant bronze in the 200-m IM, having pulled it off behind a Chinese pair who both swam with one arm and full lower extremities.
Huang Xianquan touched the wall first in 2:48.34 in the event with Yang Huaqiang checking in second in 2:50.73. Gawilan clocked 2:52.82.
“I normally start slow every race, but I will eventually pick up the pace near the end,” said Gawilan. “It’s something I really have to work on, especially in sprints.”
After being relegated to the bronze, Gawilan bounced back from that effort by zooming ahead in the final 150 m that left Singapore’s Soong Toh Wei and Huang Xiangquan shifting to chase mode down the finish.
“I knew exactly when to make my move and the plan worked,” said Gawilan.