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Bejino overwhelmed by glare of racing against world’s best

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SWIMMER Gary Bejino struggled in his Tokyo Paralympic Games debut on Thursday, finishing dead last among six entries in the second heat of the men’s SM6 200-meter individual medley event and exited early at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre in Tokyo.

The first Filipino campaigner to plunge into action, Bejino seemed awed by the moment as he clocked three minutes and 17.9 seconds in his heat, 34.12 seconds behind Colombia’s Nelson Crispin Corzo, a Rio Para Games double silver medalist, who led seven others into finals with a time of 2:43.07.

Bejino also placed last among the 17 swimmers who saw action in the race, a lackluster showing that coach Tony Ong attributed to the pressure and nerves felt by the 23-year-old athlete after his opening stint in the quadrennial sportsfest for the cream of the crop of para athletes in the world.

“It’s Gary’s to be in the Paralympics and he is still young—and the pressure got into him being in the first event,” Ong said. “I still need to talk to him about it so he can settle down for his successive events.”

Ong said that while Bejino did well in the 50-meter butterfly leg of the event, overall, they still lacked enough time to prepare despite the month’s workout they had at the Philippine Science High School indoor pool.

Ong was hopeful that his ward would be able to redeem himself in his three remaining events—men’s 50-meter butterfly on August 30, 400-meter freestyle on September 2, and 100-meter backstroke on September 3.

Stepping up to the plate next for the Philippine Paralympic squad are swimmer Ernie Gawilan and wheelchair racer Jerrold Mangliwan, who will compete on Friday in the stint supported by the Philippine Sports Commission.

Both veterans of the 2016 Rio Para Games, Gawilan dives into the pool in the men’s SM7 200-meter individual medley race at 10:03 a.m. (9:03 a.m. in Manila) in the first of three heats where the top eight will advance to the finals at 6:22 p.m. (5:22 p.m.)

Mangliwan, who was the country’s flag-bearer during the opening ceremonies of the meet last Monday, wheels into play in the T52 men’s 400-meter run also in the opening heat 10:43 a.m. (9:43 a.m. in Manila) at the Japan National Stadium. The top three finishers from each of the two heats plus the two next fastest wheelchair racers among the 13 entries will complete the eight-man cast in the finals scheduled at 10:16 pm. (9:16 p.m. in Manila).

A native of Tabuk, Mangliwan, 41, vowed to dedicate his race not only for the country but also for his coach, Joel Deriada, who was left back home after testing positive for Covid-19 on eve of the team’s departure for the Japanese capital.

Deriada said from Manila that the athlete was in high spirits and was eager to perform well in the event where he also reached the finals in Rio de Janeiro five years ago.

“I told Jerrold that there are some things that we might not understand but to use what happened to me as added motivation to do his best,” said the coach, who was with the athlete in Rio, and disclosed that he has tested negative for the virus in a succeeding test.

Image courtesy of AP

Read full article on BusinessMirror

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