By Gab Ferreras, contributing writer
After his remarkable performance in one of the final qualifying events for Paraswimming in the upcoming Tokyo Paralympics, Ernie Gawilan is setting sights on bagging the podium finish in the quadrennial meet set this August.
The Davaoeno amputee tanker, who classified as a S7, clinched the bronze medal in the Men's 400 meter freestyle finals in the recent International Deutsche Meisterschaften Berlin 2021 World Para Swimming Series, clocking 5 minutes and 3.74 seconds. His performance signals Gawilan to formally qualify in the Tokyo Paralympics after the review classification race during the competition.
Though it might be difficult for the 30-year old swimmer in his possibilities to snatch the podium finish, Gawilan told TOPS Usapang Sports on Air forum that he expressed his readiness for the Paralympics and vows to train hard despite the challenges he faced since the start of the pandemic.
"Ready naman po tayo. Handa naman po lagi. Kahit na yung noong nakaraang taon, hindi tayo nakapag-swim ng maayos dahil naka-lockdown sa buong Pilipinas, tapos mahirap po namin sa sports namin kasi kailangan nasa tubig kami para makapag-swim. Kaya nahinto po kami ng mahabang panahon pero kakayanin po.", Gawilan said.
"Parang semifinals po sa umaga sir. Tapos kala mo kasi di na pasok yung time ko sa 400 m freestyle kaya umuwi na lang po kami sa hotel, tapos kinabukasan doon ko nalaman na nanalo pala yung time ko kasi yung labanan po kasi dito sir, by points po kasi para manalo ka, malaki ang points mo.", he added.
While he is in Davao during the lockdown period, Gawilan, who lives near the sea, trained in open waters, until he decided to go back to Manila to join the training bubble in a sports hotel in Quezon City last March.
Gawilan, who will competing in his 2nd Paralympics stint, hopes that the number of the paraathletes who will joined Team Pilipinas will increase than 5 in the 2016 Rio Paralympics.
"Siguro po sir kasi noong nakaraan, nasa 5 atleta po kami nagpunta doon sa Rio. Sana mas mahigitan po namin yung delegation na sasabak dati sa Rio.", he ended.
Aside from Gawilan, para taekwondo jin Allain Ganapin was also qualified to the Tokyo Paralympics via bipartite slot.