Gameplan: Filipino athletes battle their hearts out at Rio Paralympics
MANILA, Philippines – Much like any other athlete, swimmer Ernie Gawilan, table tennis player Josephine Medina, racer Jerold Mangliwan, and powerlifters Agustin Kitan and Adeline Ancheta all fit in hours of rigorous training into their schedules.
"Mahirap mag-train. Pinupush ka kahit ayaw mo na (Training is hard. They push you harder when you want to give up)," said Josephine, who struggles with polio. Together with her coach, she has to stand for 3 hours a day, using up to a thousand pingpong balls.
"'Yung mga muscles sa balikat ko parang mapuputol na. Hindi mo pa maiwasang tumama 'yung fingers mo sa gulong (The muscles on my shoulders feel like they'll be torn off. It's also hard to keep my fingers from touching the wheels)," said wheelchair racer Jerold.
Powerlifters Agustin and Adeline, meanwhile, credit a lot of their willpower to their coach.
"Umabot sa punto na sinabi niya, 'Ano, ang hina hina mo naman!' Kaya mapapaisip ka ng, 'Ah mahina pala ha, sige lalakasan ko.' (There was a time when my coach told me, 'You're so weak!' I told myself that I'm not weak and that I would push harder)," shared Agustin.
Ernie, Davao's swimming sensation, was born with underdeveloped extremities, which means he only draws power from one hand. "Mahirap eh. Isa lang 'yung power ko, 'yung kanan lang. Kailangan doblehin 'yung lakas ko (It's hard because I get power from my right hand only. I have to push myself twice as hard)," he shared.
Pain is inevitable. But despite the physical challenges, these para-athletes bank on their strong hearts to pull them through every competition.
"Hindi naman importante kung sino ka. Kung anong meron o wala sa'yo. Lahat tayo ay may challenges sa buhay. Puso lang talaga ang kailangan. Kasi kung wala ka no'n, susuko ka na eh. Puso lang ang kailangan para maabot ang tagumpay."
(It doesn't matter who you are, or what you have or don't have. We all face challenges in life. A strong heart is all you need. Because if you don't have that, you will just give up. All you need to be successful is a strong heart.) – Rappler.com