Gawilan wins PHL’s 1st gold

SURAKARTA, Indonesia—Swimming delivered the country’s first pair of gold medals in the 11th ASEAN Para Games Monday as Ernie Gawilan and Roland Sabido splashed their way to the top of their respective events at the Jatadiri Sports Complex pool in the neighboring city of Semarang.

Comely thrower Cendy Asusano added the third gold in early morning action as she ruled the women’s javelin throw F54 class at the Manahan Stadium for a promising start  for the Filipino para athletes, a majority of them competing for the first time since the 2017 edition of the meet held in Malaysia.

Cendy Asusano (with pink head band) bags the women’s javelin throw gold medal and poses with the Philippine flag with fellow medalists (from left) Armand Dino, Jessebel Tordecilla, Joel Balatucan (right) and Daniel Enderes Jr.

A triple gold medalist in the Jakarta 2018 Asian Para Games, Gawilan kicked off the Philippine campaign by ruling the men’s 400-meter freestyle S7 in four minutes and 54.87 seconds in the outing sponsored by the Philippine Sports Commission.

Then Sabido and Arnel Aba led a 1-2 finish in the men’s 400-meter freestyle S9 with times of 5:09.40 and 5:14.13, respectively, much to the delight of the small Filipino crowd  at the pool led by Philippine Paralympic Committee President Mike Barredo.

“We have a good start and hopefully, this will continue for the rest of the games,” said Gawilan, 31, who won two golds and two silvers in the regional meet for para athletes held in Kuala Lumpur five years ago.

The Davao City pride aimed for another gold medal in the 4×100 meter freestyle relays 34 points that was swam in the afternoon with Sabido, Aba and Edwin Villanueva, who copped a bronze medal in the men’s 400-meter freestyle S8.

“I’m so happy because I didn’t expect to win gold right in my first throw,”said Asusano, who settled the issue with her heave of 13.72 meters on the first attempt.

Also contributing a bronze medal each in athletics were Joel Balatucan, Daniel Enderes Jr., Armand Dino and Jesebel Tordecilla in men’s shotput’s F55, 5,000-meter T20 race, 100-meter T47 race and women’s discus throw F55, respectively.

On Sunday night, table tennis also made its modest medal contribution with two bronzes in men’s team Class 4 through Billy Cartera, Racleo Martinez and Darwin Salvacion and men’s class 8 doubles courtesy of Jobert Lumanta and Jayson Ocampo.

Counting the silver in men’s 3×3 wheelchair basketball last Sunday, the Filipinos now boast an early overall medal tally of three gold, two silver and seven bronze medals.

More medals were expected Monday afternoon in swimming, track and field and powerlifting, where two-time Asian Para Games silver medalist Achelle Guion was vying in the women’s 46-kilogram division.

Among those also expected to figure prominently were wheelchair racer Jerrold Mangliwan in men’s 100-meter T52, Jeannete Aceveda in women’s discus throw F11-13 and Angel Otom in women’s 50-meter backstroke S5.

The country’s athletes aim to surpass the haul of 20 gold, 20 silver and29 bronze medals, good for fifth overall,  in the Malaysian capital in 2017.