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Priming up | Inquirer Sports

Priming up | Inquirer Sports

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Jerrold Mangliwan (second from left) is shown here in action during the men’s 400-meter T52 final of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games at Olympic Stadium on Friday. —AFP

Wheelchair sprint specialist Jerrold Mangliwan rolled fiercely at high velocity, approaching the final lap of the race of his life.

At this point, the country’s flag-bearer was already running fourth, just a few seconds away from a medal, before two other racers whizzed past him near the finish.

The 41-year-old pride of Tabuk, Kalinga, crossed the line at sixth in the lung-busting men’s 1500-meter T52 at the 2021 Tokyo Paralympic Games late Sunday evening, clocking way faster than his personal best.

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“His time is 11 seconds better than his previous best. I’m happy with Jerrold’s performance,’’ said coach Joel Deriada after Mangliwan clocked three minutes and 58.24 seconds, far better than his own record of 4:09.95.

Tomoki Sato of Japan seized the gold medal in 3:29.13, beating Raymond Martin of the United States (3:29.72) at the line while Japanese Hirokazu Ueyonabaru arrived third in 3:44.17.

By all indications, Mangliwan could only get better.

It was visibly obvious that he was in peak form during the finals of the 400m T52 four nights ago after placing fifth with an improved personal mark of one minute and .80 seconds, a new national record had it been counted.

The gutsy effort of Mangliwan, who suffered from paraplegia caused by polio when he was 2 years old, was nullified after his left wheel crossed over to the lane of Austria’s Thomas Geierspichler in the final stretch of the contest.

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“I just gave everything I had in that race. I wasn’t even aware of what actually happened because I closed my eyes near the finish,’’ said Mangliwan in Filipino.

He has one more event coming up—the high-speed men’s 100m T52 qualifying heats on Thursday and the finals on Friday should he advance, and this race in a distance that is a far departure from his pet events should prime up the Filipino.

“Those who lose hope never succeed. As long as I’m in the race, I will never give up,’’ said Mangliwan, a sprint double-gold medalist in the 100m and 200m during the 2015 Asean Para Games in Singapore.

Gawilan bows out

Meanwhile, swimmer Ernie Gawilan wrapped up his campaign in these Games by missing the men’s 100m backstroke S7 finals following an effort of 1:21.60, good for sixth place in his heat.

Fellow swimmer Gary Bejino didn’t progress to the afternoon finals of the men’s 50m butterfly either, winding up seventh in his heat in 36.14 seconds.

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The 22-year-old Bejino will swim in the 400m freestyle S6 on Thursday before capping his Paralympic debut on Friday in the 100m backstroke S6.

High hopes

Gawilan closed out his second consecutive Paralympics with a flash of brilliance in the 400m freestyle S7 on Sunday when the 30-year-old from Davao City became the first Filipino to qualify to the finals in the swim competitions of these Games.

“Ernie had a difficult time in the 400m yesterday (Sunday). He was three seconds off his personal best in the backstroke,’’ said coach Tony Ong. “It was intense. [But] we finally saw a Filipino in the finals of the biggest para swimming competition in the world.’’

Gawilan, a triple-gold performer in the 2018 Asian Para Games (APG), summoned all the energy left in his tank and finished sixth in the 400m free finale with a time of 4:56.24 seconds.

He was clinging on to seventh place at the onset before going full throttle in the seventh lap to complete his date with destiny as the only Filipino para swimmer in the finals of the quadrennial Games where the world’s finest athletes with disabilities compete.

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“My next target is the Asian Para Games in China next year. I hope we can train better this time,’’ said Gawilan in Filipino, looking for a year of training for the APG set on October 2022 in a bid to defend his three titles in the 200m individual medley, 400m free and 100m back.

Ong has faith that both Gawilan and Bejino could have performed way better if not for the restrictions caused by the COVID-19 health crisis.

“Our kids (Gawilan and Bejino) are very talented. I just hope we can have a longer training period for next year’s Asian Para Games,’’ said Ong. INQ

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