On Tuesday night, esteemed para swimmer Ernie Gawilan clinched the first gold medal for Team Philippines after defending his men’s 400-meter freestyle S7 title at the 4th Hangzhou Asian Para Games swimming championships held at the Hangzhou Olympic Center Aquatic Arena on Tuesday, October 24, 2023.
After settling for a bronze medal in the men’s 200-meter individual medley (IM) on Monday, October 23, Gawilan was determined not to let the gold slip this time. He powered his way to the forefront at the 150-meter mark, clocking four minutes and 58.29 seconds.
Gawilan, who hails from Davao City, raced in the outside lane, showcasing patience and a burst of speed, achieving a personal best time of 18.65 seconds. This win marked his first medal at the continental meet after finishing fourth in the same event during the 2018 edition held in Jakarta, Indonesia.
While he fell short of his own Asian Games record of 4:51.00 set in the 2018 Jakarta Games, Gawilan still demonstrated his prowess, leaving Singapore’s Soong Toh Wei and China’s Huang Xiangquan in his wake. Wei clinched the silver with a time of 5:12.16, while Xiangquan secured the bronze in 5:16.33.
The Dabawenyo ace said, “Masayang-masaya po ako dahil nakabawi ako sa pagkatalo ko kahapon (I’m very happy because I recovered from my loss yesterday).” He also expressed his pride in being the first athlete to bring home not just the first medal but the first gold for the country, acknowledging the rarity of such an achievement.
National para-swimming coach Tony Ong revealed that the strategy was for Gawilan to assess the competition early and make his move around the halfway point of the race. Ong stated, “I told Ernie that our goal was to go for the gold and not the record this time. Kailangan natin mag-kaginto so yun ang naging approach namin for this race. And, thank God, nasunod naman (We needed to win the gold, that was our approach in this race),” referring to Gawilan’s Asian Para Games record of 4:51 when he won the same event in the 2018 Jakarta edition.
At 32 years old, Gawilan aims to add another gold to his collection as he competes in the men’s 100-meter backstroke on the final day of the 4th Asian Para Games swimming championships on Thursday.
His victory crowned a fruitful day for Filipino athletes, as wheelchair racer Jerrold Mangliwan claimed the silver medal in the men’s 100-meter T52 finals of the 4th APG trackfest at the Huanglong Sports Stadium oval, surpassing South Korea’s Jeong Jondae. Mangliwan expressed his gratitude to God for the opportunity and dedicated his silver medal to his cousin, Handsome Magdiwang, who was involved in an accident back home.
This win marked his first medal at the continental meet after finishing fourth in the same event during the 2018 edition held in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Japan’s Ito Tatsuya maintained his title, setting a new meet record of 17.41 meters, while South Korea’s Jeon, who clocked 18.67 seconds, secured the bronze.
Mangliwan, who won two gold medals in the Cambodian ASEAN Para Games last June, is expected to be a strong contender for another medal in his favorite event, the men’s 400-meter T52 contest, scheduled later in the week.