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Bejino gets biggest test in Tokyo pool

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ALL eyes will be on swimmer Gary Bejino, who will be the first Filipino campaigner to plunge into action in the Tokyo Paralympic Games as he competes in the men’s SM6 200-meter individual medley at the Tokyo Aquatic Center on Thursday in Japan.

A back-to-back gold medalist in the Asean Para Games in the 2015 Singapore and 2017 Malaysia editions, respectively, Bejino is racing in lane No. 7 in the second of three heats starting at 9:32 a.m. (8:32 a.m. Manila time).

The top eight overall finishers in the heats will enter the finals scheduled at 5:22 p.m. (4:22 p.m.) later in the day.

Bejino would have been joined by another para-athlete in competing in the second day of action of the World Para Games in the stint supported by the Philippine Sports Commission. But powerlifter Achelle Guion, who also set to compete Thursday, had to stay at home after testing positive for Covid-19 on the day of the Philippine contingent’s departure for Tokyo last Sunday, the Philippine Paralympic Committee announced last Tuesday.

Swimming Coach Tony Ong said that Bejino felt a bit nervous by the fact that this was his first Para Games and “competing in the highest level of competition. But I told him not to worry and enjoy. In enjoying the process and you make it to the finals, then let’s take it from there.”

“I feel a bit nervous because this is my first time to compete in the Games,” said the 23-year-old athlete, who was electrocuted at the age of seven that left his entire body badly burnt and prompted attending doctors to amputate his right arm and left leg.

“We don’t expect too much because of the lack of preparation due to the quarantine and everything. We are aiming for a better time or reach his best time,” Ong said. “We did everything in training so hopefully, we can achieve something great despite our one and a half month training only.”

Ong added: “It’s too difficult to expect, but let’s pray that something might come out.”

Bejino’s illustrious teammate, Ernie Gawilan, who won a pair of gold and silver medals in the 2018 Asian Para Games in Jakarta, is set to make his debut in the men’s SM7 200-meter individual medley event on Friday.

Ong said that Bejino and Gawilan swam 3,000 meters each—or 60 laps in a 50-meter pool—last Tuesday and were tapering off so merely did build-up swims and practiced their dives on Wednesday.

Former national swimming standout turned coach Ral Rosario, who has also handled both swimmers, had only praises for both, citing not only their skill and talent but excellent work ethic.

“Gary and Ernie are determined. They are able to block out pain and you can push them as hard as you can and they don’t complain,” Rosario, a gold medalist in the men’s 200-meter freestyle in the 1978 Bangkok Asian Games, said in an interview from Manila.

“They [Bejino and Gawilan] are very trainable, and they accept what coaches tell them to do. It’s very hard to find athletes with that same kind of mentality,” said Rosario, a two-time Olympian, who was the chef de mission of the national squad in the 2015 Asean Para Games in Singapore.

Rosario said that he has kept tabs regularly with Ong “and he keeps me updated on the two swimmers. When he has concerns, he calls me up and we talk about it.”

Read full article on BusinessMirror

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