Five orthopedically-challenged Filipino athletes will fly to Rio de Janeiro next week to compete in the 15th Paralympic Games Sept. 7 to 18.
The team is composed of Josephine Medina in table tennis; Adeline Dumapong Ancheta and Agustin Kitan in powerlifting; Ernie Gawilan in swimming; and Jerrold Pete Mangliwan in athletics. Ancheta won PH’s last Paralympics medal—a bronze in the 2000 Sydney Paralympics.
Accompanied to Rio by their coaches and officials from the Philippine Sports Association for the Differently Abled (PhilSpada), our Paralympians, who make 2 million Filipinos with disabilities and a whole nation of sports fanatics proud, will banner the country’s hopes for medals in a multi-sport event for 4,000-plus athletes from more than 160 countries vying in 23 sports.
Dennis Esta, PhilSpada executive director and the delegation’s chief of mission said the athletes have trained hard and qualified on their own merits.
Esta said with a bankroll of P4.1 million from the Philippine Sports Commission, the contingent will be in Rio as planned despite the woes facing the International Paralympic Committee and the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee responsible both for the just concluded Summer Olympics and the Paralympics.
The world’s premier tournament for disabled athletes is currently faced with distressful ticket sales—only 350,000 of 2.5 million have been sold so far, compared to the 2.7 million tickets sold in London in 2012—and lack of sponsors.
But the Rio Olympic Committee and the IPC said they are working hard to plug financial holes and the Paralympics will go on as scheduled.
The recent Summer Olympics took place in the shadow of Christ the Redeemer—a giant statue of Jesus with hands outstretched on a mountain overlooking Rio de Janeiro.
Although saddled even before they started by a laundry list of problems—the Games have been held successfully and are now history.
Resilient local organizers and volunteers with assist from the International Olympic Committee, can now heave a huge sigh of relief.
Staging the Olympiad with aplomb was a monumental feat, despite the threat of the Zika virus, water pollution, street crime and political and economic upheavals not only in the host city but in the whole of Brazil.
Although hosted under extreme pressure, the Rio Olympiad produced record breaking feats and heartwarming results that celebrated the victory of the human spirit.
It will be known internationally as the last for both Usain Bolt, the fastest human on earth, and Michael Phelps, the greatest Olympic athlete of all time.
Locally, the Rio Games will be remembered for Hidilyn Diaz’s silver medal in women’s weightlifting that ended our country’s 20-year Olympic medal drought and a renewed call by sports officials for more international sorties for local athletes.
Perhaps when they speak about faith and values, Brazilians point to Christ the Redeemer—Cristo Redentor in Portuguese—as the force that showered them with heavenly grace.
Now the Carnival people, hoping to redeem themselves again, no doubt are banking once more on the most famous Roman Catholic icon in South America with its welcoming arms for another gush of evangelical help to keep the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games afloat.