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Alegarbes makes huge splash

SURAKARTA, Indonesia — Ariel Joseph Alegarbes made a splashing debut in the 11th ASEAN Para Games Monday, capturing two gold medals in record-breaking style at the Jatidiri Sports Complex pool in Semarang.

In front of a lean yet animated Filipino crowd, among them his father Abner, Alegarbes had an unforgettable outing in ruling the men’s 100-meter backstroke S14 event in thrilling fashion, surging in the last 10 meters to win the race by a touch in one minute and .03.01 seconds.

He nipped Malaysia’s Muhammad Imaan Aiman, who wrested the lead at the 75-meter mark but lost team and settled for silver in 1:03.20, while Thailand’s Mrjirachot Chuvong was a distant third and took the bronze medal (1:11.68).

Barely taking a breather, the 18-year-old Victoria, Negros Oriental pride was back at the pool, but this time led from start to finish in handily winning the men’s 50-butterfly S14 in 26.43 seconds, completing a golden double in his rookie stint in the biennial meet.

On top of being the country’s first double gold medalist in the meet, Alegarbes established new meet records in both events, first smashing the five-year-old mark of 1:03.60 in the 100-meter backstroke set by Indonesia’s Muhammad in the 2017 Kuala Lumpur ASEAN Para Games.

He also bested by nearly four seconds the joint record of 30.01 seconds held by Malaysian W.Y. Chung and Indonesian D. Nugruho also set in the same Games held in the Malaysian capital.

“I feel like I am about to explode because I was not expecting this. This is for my father who led me into swimming. Without him I wouldn’t be here,” said Alegarbes, who was diagnosed with from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder with learning disability with dyslexia, while handing both mints to his delighted father.

“Of course, I am very proud of my son and I am glad to witness his accomplishment,” said the elder Alegarbes, who left his work as a construction worker to look after his son after learning of his son’s physical challenge at an early age through the advice of his late psychologist brother.

Alegarbes’ success was a brilliant follow-up to his winning one gold and one silver medal in the 100-meter butterfly S14 and 100-meter backstroke S14, respectively, in the Asian Youth Para Games held in Manama, Bahrain last December.

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