‘Out of our control’: PH Paralympic chief laments team’s COVID-19 challenges

Beatrice Go

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‘Out of our control’: PH Paralympic chief laments team’s COVID-19 challenges

DISAPPOINTING. Jeanette Aceveda misses the chance to become the first visually-impaired Filipino para athlete to see action in the quadrennial meet.

Jat Tenorio/Red Ox Media Events

Jeanette Aceveda tests positive for COVID-19, the latest blow to the country’s Tokyo Paralympics team

Philippine Paralympic Committee (PPC) chief Mike Barredo said the country’s Tokyo Games campaign has been hindered by several challenges, with discus thrower Jeanette Aceveda becoming the latest member of the team to become infected with COVID-19.

Aceveda, who was slated to compete on Tuesday, August 31, missed her chance to become the first visually-impaired Filipino to participate in the Paralympics after she tested positive for COVID-19.

“I really felt sorry for her because this is a disability we share,” said 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.” 

Aceveda was indeed upset over her situation, according to Barredo, but the 50-year-old remained hopeful for Paris 2024.

“Her plight, in a nutshell, is what the entire team has suffered. Naging problema sa atin ‘yung participation (Participation became a problem) because of COVID-19. It’s a very frustrating and upsetting situation that is out of our control,” added the PPC chief. 

“Jeanette has gotten over the issue and vowed to do her best to make it back to the 2024 Paris Paralympics,” he added.

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Barredo, who has been helping in six straight Paralympic Games, shared that the country’s Tokyo delegation was severely challenged by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic as accessibility is a consideration for differently abled 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,” said 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,” he added.

Aside from Aceveda, powerlifter Achelle Guion had to stay behind in the Philippines after testing positive for COVID-19 pre-departure to Tokyo. The others who also turned up with positive results include Guion’s coach Antonio Taguibao, chef de mission Francis “Kiko” Diaz, and Aceveda’s coach Bernard Buen.

But there were upsides to the team’s preparations and campaign as the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) was able to approve the Paralympic team’s bubble training. 

“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,” Barredo said.

Para swimmers Ernie Gawilan and Gary Bejino, and wheelchair racer Jerrold Mangliwan have been donning the country’s colors in the Tokyo Paralympics with their best performances.

“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,” Barredo noted of the two Paralympians, who have also competed in the Rio Games. 

“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,” he added. –

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Beatrice Go

More commonly known as Bee, Beatrice Go is a multimedia sports reporter for Rappler, who covers Philippine sports governance, national teams, football, and the UAAP. Stay tuned for her news and features on Philippine sports and videos like the Rappler Athlete’s Corner and Rappler Sports Timeout.