BILANG beterano ng anim na sunod na Paralympics, kabilang ang Tokyo edition, sinabi ni Philippine Paralympic Committee president Mike Barredo na ang bawat paglahok ng Filipino para athletes sa sportsfest ay may kakaibang hamon at problema.
Subalit ang mga pagsubok na kinaharap ng PH campaigners sa kanilang paghahanda at pagsabak sa Tokyo Paralympic Games ang pinakamatindi, ayon kay Barredo, na bagama’t ayaw magdahilan ay sinisi ang COVID-19 pandemic na siyang may kasalanan sa kanilang sinapit.
Mula sa training, pag-qualify, hanggang sa kanilang aktuwal na paglahok sa Tokyo ay hindi nilubayan ng virus ang national para athletes.
“While our able-bodied national athletes had problems of their own in finding facilities to train for the Tokyo Olympics, it came doubly hard for our national para athletes,” ani Barredo. “We needed not only accessible training venues but also accessible accommodations for them.
“We practically had 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 had their quarters because it was converted into a quarantine facility. We understand this reality. It is what it is.”
Kaya nagpapasalamat siya at tinulungan sila ng Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) sa paghahanap ng hiwalay na training bubbles para sa lahat ng anim na Paralympic-bound athletes sa loob ng isa o dalawang buwan upang makapagsagawa ng actual workouts bago sila umalis patungong Japanese capital.
“In fairness, we have nothing to say but thank the PSC chairman Butch Ramirez for the all-out support they have given our athletes including their separate bubble training before leaving for Tokyo,” pagbibigay-diin ni Barredo.
Ang akala niya ay iniwan na nila ang kanilang problema sa Manila nang hindi makasama ang ilang miyembro ng PH Paralympic contingent matapos na magpositibo sa virus bago tumulak sa Tokyo. Kabilang sa mga ito si powerlifter Achelle Guion, ang kanyang coach, Antonio Taguibao, at PH squad chef de mission Francisco “Kiko” Diaz.
Subalit nagpatuloy ang kasawian ng contingent sa Tokyo nang magpositibo sa virus sina discus thrower Jeanette Aceveda at athletic coach Bernard Buen, dahilan para hindi siya magkaroon ng pagkakataon na maging unang visually-impaired Filipino athlete na sumabak sa meet para sa world’s top para athletes.
“I really felt sorry for her because this is a disability we share,” ani Barredo. “It would have been an inspiration to visually-impaired Filipinos that despite all of the challenges it could be done to compete in the Paralympics. It would have been bragging rights for her for being the first.”
Sinabi ng PPC chief na bagama’t nalungkot ang atleta, “Jeanette has gotten over the issue and vowed to do her best to make it back to the 2024 Paris Paralympics.”
“Her plight, in a nutshell, is what the entire team has suffered. Naging problema sa atin yong participation because of COVID-19. It’s a very frustrating and upsetting situation that is out of our control.”
Ipinagmalaki rin ni Barredo ang narating nina swimmers Ernie Gawilan, Gary Bejino, at wheelchair racer Jerrold Mangliwan sa kabila ng mga hamon at problema sa Tokyo.
“Ernie was able to improve his personal bests in his events despite the limited training while Jerrold, except for his disqualification in the men’s 400-meter finals, has also been able to improve a lot, particularly in the 1,500-meter race,” wika ni Barredo patungkol sa dalawang Rio Paralympic veterans.
“Gary is a bit raw this being his first Paralympics. But given more rigorous training and exposure, we expect him to do better in international competition and, hopefully, qualify for the Paris Paralympic Games in 2024,” dagdag pa niya.