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PH para athletes undaunted by elite rivals

The Philippine delegation to the world’s biggest parasports tournament that started last night until September 5 in Tokyo, Japan*

Wheelchair racer Jerrold Mangliwan and discus thrower Jeanette Aceveda are undaunted by the elite opposition they will be up against in their respective events in the World Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

“He who gives up will not win. So we will not give up,” Mangliwan, who was struck by polio at the age of 2, said as stressed his resolve to do well.

“We will look at the records of our opponents, they are strong. But we are also strong,” echoed Aceveda of the sentiments of her fellow athlete in an interview Monday inside the Athletes Village.

The tall and stocky Aceveda, who won three golds in the 2013 Asean Para Games in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, said she is keenly aware of the challenges facing them in their stint, and fully supported by the Philippine Sports Commission.

“They are the best from their countries, so that’s already a battle of the champions. But we will not give up,” said the 50-year-old mother of three, who manages three massage therapy clinics in different malls in Marikina.

Mangliwan, who was the Philippine contingent’s standard-bearer during the opening ceremonies at the Japan National Stadium last night, will be the first to see action between them on Friday in the T52 men’s 400-meter race, with the heats scheduled in the morning and the finals in the evening.

His coach, Joel Deriada, believes that the 2016 Rio Para Games veteran will reach the finals of the first of three events if he plays his cards right.

“We already saw the records of our opponents, so we have a good chance in this event,” Mangliwan said. “My goal is to make it to the finals. Once I get in, I’ll give all my best.”

The wheelchair racer’s other events are the men’s 1,500-meter race on Saturday and the 100-meter sprint, beginning with the heats on Sept. 2 and the finals on a succeeding day.

“I also wanted to enter the finals. And, of course, to win. We will give our best,” said Aceveda, who suffered a degenerative disease at the age of 3 that has left her technically blind in both eyes.

Compounding the discus thrower situation is the fact that under the International Paralympic Committee and World Para rules, she will be performing blindfolded to block out whatever feeble light that some athletes might still perceive as means of equalizing the playing field.

Thankfully, Aceveda will have plenty of time to hone her technique together with coach Bernard Buen since the F11 women’s discus throw finals won’t be until Aug. 31 at the Japan National Stadium.

Both athletes said they were quite comfortable with their quarters and gave the thumbs-up to the food served at the two-storey Athletes Village dining hall, which is open round-the-clock to serve the over 4,000 athletes and officials from 163 countries taking part in the Tokyo Para Games.

Mangliwan said he was still trying to accustom himself to the automated self-driving buses that move around the locations within the Athletes Village. The movements of the vehicles are monitored by computers and video cams by assigned personnel along with the designated bus stops.

“I’m a little bit confused because there is no driver, but I will eventually get used to it,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Paralympic Committee released an official statement yesterday, announcing that para-powerlifter Achele “Jinky” Guion won’t be able to compete in the Games after testing positive for Covid-19 together with her coach, Antonio “Tony’’ Taguibao.

“Jinky is deeply frustrated that she will not be able to compete in her powerlifting event for her country after training for so long, and especially getting much inspiration from Hidilyn Diaz, a powerlifter like herself and the first Filipino to win an Olympic medal,’’ PPC president Michael Barredo said.

Other members of the delegation who tested positive for Covid-19 are Chef de Mission Francis Diaz and para-athletics coach Joel Deriada.

Barredo took over as chef de mission in the absence of Diaz to implement tasks involving planning, logistics, and communications, among others, for the team’s orderly navigation in the Paralympics.

“Despite this most unfortunate development, all our para-athletes remain in high spirits and committed to giving their best possible performances to bring honor and glory for our country. The fight will continue. Long live the Filipino athletes,’’ said Barredo, who will also function as the head of the delegation of Team Philippines.

4,400 ATHLETES

Some 4,400 athletes with impairments will compete in Tokyo at the world’s biggest parasports tournament.

It’s a place for sporting history, but also an event organizers say can change attitudes towards people with disabilities.

“It’s a precious event,” said Masaaki Suwa, a Japanese para-canoeist who missed the cut for the Tokyo Games but will be cheering for Japan’s team on television.

“They are doing great things but they are not superhumans. I want people to know that they are human beings just like you,” the 35-year-old told AFP.

Disability rights experts and activists paint a mixed picture of the situation in Japan.

There has been progress on barrier-free infrastructure, with officials calling accessibility important both for people with disabilities but also the country’s large elderly population.

A barrier-free enforcement law has been revised twice in recent years to promote accessibility at public facilities.*PNA/AFP

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