TOKYO – A veteran of six straight Paralympics, including the Tokyo edition here, Mike Barredo, President of the Philippine Paralympic Committee, noted that each Filipino para-athlete participant in the Sports Festival presented unique challenges and problems.
But the exams and tests PH activists faced while preparing for and participating in the Tokyo Paralympic Games were the toughest of all, according to Barredo, who, although willing to make excuses, was responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic made as a culprit for their ordeal. From training to qualification to the point where they actually had to compete in Tokyo, the virus practically followed the national para-athletes at every turn, he emphasized.
“While our functioning national athletes had their own problems finding training facilities for the Tokyo Olympics, it was doubly difficult for our national para-athletes,” regretted Barredo. “We not only needed barrier-free training locations, but also barrier-free accommodation.
“We had practically no training in 2020 due to the pandemic because our national para-athletes were forced to leave the Philsports Complex in Pasig City, where they trained and moved into their quarters because it was being converted into a quarantine facility. We understand this reality. It is what it is.”
So he was grateful that the Philippine Sports Commission could assist and assist them in finding separate training bladders for all six Paralympic athletes for a month or two to get real workouts for a month or two before they were due to leave for the Japanese capital .
“In fairness, we have nothing to say but thank PSC chairman Butch Ramirez for the full support they have given our athletes, including their separate bubble training before leaving for Tokyo,” said Barredo.
He thought they left their problems in Manila when key members of the Paralympic PH contingent were grounded because they tested positive for the virus before leaving for Tokyo. Among them were powerlifter Achelle Guion, her trainer Antonio Taguibao and PH team principal Francisco “Kiko” Diaz.
But disaster haunted the contingent to Tokyo when discus thrower Jeanette Aceveda and sports coach Bernard Buen became infected after testing, which robbed her of the chance to become the first visually impaired Filipino athlete to compete in the meeting of the world’s best para-athletes.
“I really felt sorry for her because this is a disability we share,” barredo bared. “It would have been an inspiration for the visually impaired Filipinos that they were able to take part in the Paralympics despite all the challenges. It would have been boastful for her to be the first. “
The PPC chief announced that although the athlete was upset for a while, “Jeanette got over the problem and vowed to do her best to return to the 2024 Paris Paralympics.
“In short, your plight is what the entire team suffered. Due to COVID-19, there are problems attending your attendance. It is a very frustrating and worrying situation that is beyond our control. “
He was proud of what swimmers Ernie Gawilan, Gary Bejino and wheelchair user Jerrold Mangliwan had achieved so far despite the adversity of Tokyo.
“Despite the limited training, Ernie was able to improve his personal bests in his competitions, while Jerrold was able to improve a lot, especially in the 1,500-meter race, apart from his disqualification in the men’s 400-meter final,” says Barredo of the two Rio Paralympics Veterans noted.
“Gary is a bit raw, these are his first Paralympics. But given the more rigorous training and exposure, we expect him to do better in international competition and hopefully qualify for the Paris Paralympic Games in 2024. “