Swimmers keep scooping golds

SURAKARTA, Indonesia—The prolific Filipino swimmers sustained their winning drive Friday by adding three more gold medals with rookie Ariel Joseph Alegarbes sweeping his three events in another meet record fashion in the 11th Asean Para Games at the Jatadiri Sports Complex in Semarang.

Alegarbes took off like a torpedo in ruling the men’s 50-meter freestyle S14 race in 25.74 seconds for his third straight gold medal, duplicating the feat of female teammate Angel Otom last Thursday in the stint supported by the Philippine Sports Commission.

Fellow newcomer Marco Tinamisan sustained his sweet performance with his second straight gold medal while Gary Bejino finally scored a breakthrough after two runner-up finishes in capturing his first in the swimming competition.

Tinamisan bagged gold in the 100-meter freestyle S3 event in 1:54.15 while Tokyo Paralympic veteran Bejino ruled the men’s 100-meter freestyle S6 race in 1:13.80 to raise the para swimming team’s gold total haul to 12.

The para athletes, who surpassed their golden haul of 20 in the 2017 Kuala Lumpur edition after their sweep of the men’s chess P1 individual and team events last Thursday afternoon, hiked their output to 24 golds, 23 silvers and 43 bronzes with swimming’s latest contribution.

They have already exceeded the previous tally of 20 gold, 20 silver and 29 bronze medals the country won in the Malaysian capital five years ago, and, if the 11th edition of the games’ official web site is to be followed, would place the campaigners in fourth overall.

The present web site tally shows Malaysia precariously holding to the fourth place with a tally of 24-13-5.

Philippine Paralympic Committee president Mike Barredo, who is back in Manila, credited this sterling showing to the late President Fidel V. Ramos, who had urged Barredo to form the para sports group way back in 1996, which was then known as the Philippine Sports Association of Differently-abled Athletes.

“It was FVR (Ramos’s popular initials) who initiated the formation of the para movement in the country so we pay our tribute to the late President in offering the showing of our athletes in the 11th ASEAN Para Games in Indonesia to him,” he said.

“This is totally unexpected but once again I thank my father Abner for introducing me to swimming so I could overcome my asthma as a young boy,” said Alegarbes, who also won gold and silver medal in the Asian Youth Para Games in Manama, Bahrain last December.

Among those contributing silvers to the Philippine campaign were Marcelo Burgos and Angelo Manangdang, who were seeing action in their first international tournament, in the men’s compound doubles in archery and Andrew Kevin Arandia in the men’s singles event Class 9 of table tennis.

Thailand buried the Philippines in a hail of triples on the way to a 87-36 romp in capturing the men’s wheelchair 5×5 basketball gold at the GOR Sritex Arena.