Jerrold Mangliwan (second from left) is shown here in action during the Men’s 400m T52 Final of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on Friday. —AFP
Wheelchair sprint specialist Jerrold Mangliwan rolled fiercely at high speed, approaching the final lap of the race of his life.
At that point, the country’s flag bearer was already fourth, just seconds away from a medal, before two other racers whizzed past him at the finish.
Tabuk’s 41-year-old pride, Kalinga, crossed the line sixth in the long-breaking 1500m men’s T52 at the 2021 Paralympic Games in Tokyo late Sunday night, much faster than his personal best.
“His time is 11 seconds better than his previous record. I’m happy with Jerrold’s performance,” said coach Joel Deriada after Mangliwan clocked three minutes and 58.24 seconds, much better than his own record of 4:09.95.
Japan’s Tomoki Sato took the gold medal in 3:29.13, beating United States’ Raymond Martin (3:29.72) at the finish, while Japan’s Hirokazu Ueyonabaru was third in 3:44.17.
By all indications, Mangliwan could only get better.
It was visibly clear that he was on top form in the final of the 400m T52 four nights ago, after finishing fifth with an improved personal mark of one minute and .80 seconds, a new national record if it was counted.
Mangliwan, who suffered from a spinal cord injury caused by polio when he was 2 years old, was wiped out after his left wheel swung into the track of Austrian Thomas Geierspichler in the final stretch of the race.
“I just gave everything I had in that race. I didn’t even know what really happened because I closed my eyes at the finish,” Mangliwan said in Filipino.
He has one more event ahead of him: the high-speed races of the men’s 100m T52 on Thursday and the finals on Friday if he goes through, and this race far removed from his pet events should boost the Filipino.
“Those who lose hope never succeed. As long as I’m in the race, I’ll never give up,” said Mangliwan, a double gold sprint medalist in the 100m and 200m at the 2015 Asean Para Games in Singapore.
Meanwhile, swimmer Ernie Gawilan rounded out his campaign in these Games by missing the final of the men’s S7 100m backstroke after a 1:21.60 effort, finishing sixth in his heat.
Fellow swimmer Gary Bejino also failed to reach the afternoon final of the men’s 50-meter butterfly, finishing seventh in his series in 36.14 seconds.
Bejino, 22, will swim in the S6 400m freestyle on Thursday before making his Paralympic debut in the S6 100m backstroke on Friday.
Gawilan closed his second consecutive Paralympic Games with a flash of brilliance in the 400-meter freestyle S7 on Sunday, as the 30-year-old from Davao City became the first Filipino to qualify for the finals in these Games’ swimming competitions.
“Ernie struggled in the 400m yesterday (Sunday). On the backstroke he was three seconds behind his personal best”, said coach Tony Ong. “It was intense. [But] we finally got to see a Filipino in the final of the biggest paraswimming competition in the world.”
Gawilan, a triple-gold performer in the 2018 Asian Para Games (APG), collected all the remaining energy in his tank and finished sixth in the 400-meter free final with a time of 4:56.24 seconds.
He initially clung to seventh place before going full throttle in the seventh round to round out his date with destiny as the only Filipino para swimmer in the finals of the quadrennial Games where the world’s top athletes with disabilities fight.
“My next goal is the Asian Para Games in China next year. I hope we can train better this time,” said Gawilan in Philippine, looking to train for a year for the APG set in October 2022 in a bid to defend his three titles in the 200m individual medley, 400m free and 100m back. .
Ong is confident that both Gawilan and Bejino could have performed much better were it not for the constraints caused by the COVID-19 health crisis.
“Our children (Gwilan 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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