SEA Games 2023

Swimming, chess show way in sizzling start as PH bags 8 golds in ASEAN Para Games

Delfin Dioquino

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Swimming, chess show way in sizzling start as PH bags 8 golds in ASEAN Para Games

FIRST GOLD. Gary Bejino breaks the golden ice for the Philippines in the 2023 ASEAN Para Games.

PSC-POC Media Pool

Para swimming and para chess deliver three golds apiece, while para athletics and powerlifting add one each for Team Philippines in the ASEAN Para Games

MANILA, Philippines – Team Philippines got off to a sterling start in the ASEAN Para Games in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, bagging eight gold medals on Sunday, June 4, courtesy of swimming, athletics, powerlifting, and chess.

Para swimmers Gary Bejino and Ernie Gawilan delivered the Philippines’ first two golds a day after the opening ceremony as the country showed promise in its bid to eclipse its 28-gold haul in the previous edition in Indonesia.

Bejino ruled the men’s 400m freestyle S6 in record-breaking fashion, clocking 5:38.26 to erase the ASEAN Para Games mark of 6:04.17 set by Myanmar’s Aung Myint Myat in 2017 and break the golden ice for the Philippines.

“I’m happy to win the first gold for our country,” said Bejino.

Gawilan, meanwhile, earned his 10th ASEAN Para Games gold after topping the men’s 400m freestyle S7 with a time of 4:58.78 and added a silver in the men’s 100m freestyle S7.

Angel Otom joined Bejino and Gawilan at the top of the podium, reigning in the women’s 50m backstroke S5 behind a 42.63 finish as the para swimming team wrapped up the day with three golds.

Like para swimming, para chess churned out three golds thanks to Darry Bernardo, Cheyzer Mendoza, Menandro Redor, and Israel Peligro.

Bernardo, a National Master, became the Philippines’ first double gold medalist in this ASEAN Para Games as he lorded over the men’s individual rapid VI-B2/B3 and men’s team rapid VI-B2/B3 with Redor and Peligro.

Mendoza nailed another chess gold in the women’s individual rapid PI event.

Cendy Asusano clinched Philippine para athletics’ first gold after ruling the women’s shot put F54 with a 5.77m heave, edging Vietnam’s Nguyen Thi Ngoc Thuy (5.48m) and compatriot Marites Burce (4.84m) for the top prize.

Powerlifting also contributed to the gold rush courtesy of Marydol Pamati-an, who snagged gold (total lift) and silver (best lift) in the women’s 41kg division.

Veteran para powerlifter Achelle Guion, who qualified for the 2012 and 2020 Paralympics, chipped in a pair of silvers (total lift and best lift) in the women’s 45kg.

Silver and bronze medals were also won in para athletics, para judo, and para chess. –

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Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.