National para-swimmers Ernie Gawilan and Gary Bejino clinched a pair of bronze medals on Monday night, October 23, marking the Philippines’ first podium finishes at the onset of the 4th Hangzhou Asian Para Games swimming championships held at the Hangzhou Olympic Center Aquatic Arena.
Gawilan, who aims to defend his three titles from the 2018 Jakarta edition, timed an impressive two minutes and 52.82 seconds, landing him in third place. He was bested only by two formidable Chinese competitors, each demonstrating remarkable prowess with one arm and two legs.
Huang Xianquan secured the gold with a time of 2:48.34, while compatriot Yang Huaqiang settled for silver at 2:50.73, amidst a fervent hometown crowd in the state-of-the-art 6,000-seat venue.
Tokyo Paralympic Games veteran, Bejino, who overcame significant adversity after an electrocution incident, also secured a bronze medal in the men’s 100-meter freestyle S6 finals, clocking in at 1:12.76. His remarkable performance disrupted a potential Chinese sweep, relegating Tang Qian to fourth place by a mere touch (1:12.85), after Tang had narrowly outpaced the Filipino in the heats, supported by the Philippine Sports Commission.
“Kahit hindi ko man na-defend ang event ko, nagpapasalamat na rin ako na nakapagbigay ako ng unang medalya muli sa bayan sa Asian Para Games (I may have not defended my event, I am still thankful to win the country’s first medal in the Asian Para Games),” said Gawilan, expressing gratitude despite narrowly missing out on a title. He remains determined for the heats of the men’s 400-freestyle scheduled for the following morning.
In an encouraging start for the national para-chess team, both the men’s and women’s PI (physically impaired) chessers dominated their first-round matches in the standard events. Competing at the Hangzhou Qi-Yuan Chess Hall, FIDE Master Sander Severino led the charge, securing a victory over Mongolia’s Sundui Sonom. Meanwhile, Henry Roger Lopez and Jasper Rom triumphed over Thailand’s Padu Srikpadee and Yoo Khoonme, respectively.
Cheyzer Cristal Mendoza shone brightly for the women’s squad, outplaying Indonesia’s Yuni. Cheryl Angot triumphed over Kyrgyzstan’s Dariaa Kuraidanarova, while Jean Lee-Nacita secured victory over China’s Zhang Yue in the women’s event.
The men’s B1 and B2, as well as the women’s B1 categories, posted commendable 2-1 win-loss records in their opening matches, all thanks to the steadfast support of the Philippine Sports Commission.
In a challenging race, Edwin Villanueva faced formidable competition, ultimately finishing eighth in the men’s 400-meter freestyle S8 finals with a time of 6:11.28.
Bejino, a double gold medalist in the last Cambodia ASEAN Para Games, narrowly missed the top spot in the first heat, trailing behind China’s Tang Qian (1:12.6). In the final rankings, he landed in fourth place, with Tang and two other local contenders, Luo Jinbiao (1:09.80) and Jia Hongguang (1:12.11), claiming the top positions.
Jesebel Tordecilla, making her Asian Para Games debut, faced an uphill battle without a proper warmup, finishing in tenth and last place in the women’s javelin throw F56 finals. Her best throw measured 12.88 meters on her fifth attempt at the HSC Stadium.