SURAKARTA, Indonesia—Like thoroughbreds chomping at the bit, Filipino para athletes finally get to unleash their skills as the 11th Asean Para Games formally open Saturday at the sprawling 20,000-seat Manahan Stadium.
Led by powerlifter Achelle “Jinky” Guion as the flag-bearer, a compact group of 30 athletes, coaches and officials will attend the ethnic-inspired colorful program in the hometown of Indonesian President Joko Widodo.
National team chef de mission Walter Torres announced Friday that the 30-member contingent at the opening day parade will come from 10 sports that the country will be vying in the weeklong meet gathering all the top para-athletes from 11 countries in Southeast Asia.
“For health and safety reasons, we decided not to include representatives from swimming because their competition venue is in the city of Semarang, which is about two hours from Surakarta,” Torres said. “Our athletes will be all clad in tracksuits provided by the Philippine Sports Commission.”
“Achieve your dreams and let your disability be your wings to aim and fly high…be it not your anchor to pull and drag you down,” Torres told the athletes. “I am confident that you will make things happen. All the best to Para Team Philippines.”
Aside from Torres and deputies Irene Remo and Tricia Rana, also attending the opening ceremony are Randy Magcawas, Arvie John Arreglado, King James Reyes and Maekel Lita for athletics; William Cablog and Dina Managdang for archery; Julie Peral Guadayo and Johnlo Respicio for badminton; Cheyzer Mendoza, Cheryl Angot, Evangeline Gamao, Felix Aguilera and Patrisha Anne Salgado for chess; David Gonzaga and Ruel Fernando for boccia; Rezil Rosalejos and Mary Ann Taguinod for judo; Gerald Tuazon and Homber Tiongson for table tennis; Jorge Lucero, Marco Lucero and Fred Estacion for goalball; Guion, Nikki Vidal and Rico Canlas for powerlifting; and Mayie Procina and Orwen Elumir for sitting volleyball.
Philippine Paralympic Committee President Mike Barredo, who arrived in Surakarta Wednesday, urged both veterans and rookies alike to compete in the Games “with a positive mindset and winning attitude.”
“If you feel nervous that’s okay because even the best athletes have jitters,” Barredo said. “Use it to pump up the adrenaline and I pray that our veterans and newcomers feed off each other’s energy and inspire one another. After all, we are one family. Let’s all go for the gold.”
Noting that the slogan of the 11th ASEAN Para Games is “Striving for Equality,” Barredo said that this was among the core values of the International Paralympic movement which are determination, inspiration, courage and equality.
“Our para athletes strive to be equals with their able-bodied counterparts through the vehicle of sports,” he said.
From Manila, PSC Executive Director and Officer-in-Charge Atty. Guillermo Iroy Jr. also had inspiring words for the athletes.
“Some, if not most, of our national para athletes have not had international competition for the last four to five years. So now make the most of the opportunity to shine and bring glory to our country,” Iroy said.
“You have sacrificed and trained long and hard so we believe that you will excel. The entire nation is behind you. We salute you all,” he added.