Wheelchair racer Mangliwan, swimmer Gawilan hope to lift PH in Tokyo Paralympics

Jerrold Mangliwan was too caught up in a mad race to the finish before eventually settling for fifth place in the 400-meter T52 wheelchair race of the Tokyo Paralympics on Friday night at Japan National Stadium.

He was unaware that he had somehow crossed into the lane of Austria’s Thomas Geierspichler near the finish line. And that wasn’t the only thing he failed to notice.

“Jerrold didn’t know he was disqualified because he left immediately after he saw his time and was already at the dining hall by the time I got to talk to him,” his coach, Joel Deriada said in Filipino on Saturday.

Mangliwan finished with a time of 1:00.80, a personal best for him had it counted.

“I asked him if he knew that he crossed into the lane of his opponent,” said Deriada, who spoke to the racer via video messaging because a positive COVID-19 test barred him from flying to Tokyo. “He said ‘no coach, because I was giving it my all and my eyes were closed near the finish line.’”

The infraction nullified not just Mangliwan’s new mark but also his fifth-place finish, which was a second off the podium.

But he has one more shot at redemption: Mangliwan, the nation’s flag-bearer during the opening ceremony, will compete in the men’s 1,500m race on Sunday, qualifying for the final outright also at Japan National Stadium due to a shortage of participants.

Tenacious field

He won’t be the only one looking for a medal in this gathering of the world’s finest Para athletes.

Buoyed by a faster output in a previous event, Ernie Gawilan looks to level up on Sunday too.

“My goal is to be there at the awarding ceremony. But first, I have to do everything I can to qualify for the finals,’’ said Gawilan, bracing for a tenacious field in the qualifying heats of the men’s 400m freestyle S7.

The 30-year-old swimming ace from Davao City, born without a pair of legs and an irregular left limb, is currently Asia’s finest in the event when he ruled the roost in the 2018 Asian Para Games (APG) in Indonesia with three gold medals.

“I told him to stay focused and be in control,’’ said coach Tony Ong.

New milestone

Despite an early exit in the opening heat of the men’s 200m individual medley on Friday, Gawilan carved a milestone by posting a new Philippine record of 2:50.49, faster than the 2:52 clocking he set in claiming the gold medal in the event during the last APG.

Mangliwan will look to be more careful as he competes in the T52 race over 1.5 kilometers.

Since the athlete’s right arm is stronger than the left, Mangliwan may have not noticed that he was slowly inching into the Austrian’s lane in his all-out effort during the last 100m.

“Maybe because of the strength of his [right] arm, he was veering to the left,” said Deriada of his ward.

The coach said Mangliwan was obviously disappointed about the missed chance but added: “Mangliwan is a fighter and got over it right away. He is looking forward to racing on Sunday.”

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