SURAKARTA, Indonesia — The prolific Filipino swimmers sustained their winning drive Friday by adding three more golds, with rookie Ariel Joseph Alegarbes completing a sweep of his three events in another meet record in the 11th ASEAN Para Games at the Jatadiri Sports Complex in Semarang here.
Alegarbes took off like a torpedo in ruling the men’s 50-meter freestyle S14 race in 25.74 seconds to secure his third straight gold medal, duplicating the feat of female teammate Angel Otom last Thursday in the stint supported by the Philippine Sports Commission.
Fellow newcomer Marco Tinamisan sustained his sweet performance with his second straight gold medal while Gary Bejino finally scored a breakthrough after two runner-up finishes in capturing his first in the swimming competition.
Tinamisan bagged the gold in the men’s 100-meter freestyle S3 event in a winning time of one minute and 54:15 seconds while Tokyo Paralympic veteran Bejino ruled the men’s 100-meter freestyle S6 race in 1:13.80 to raise the PH para swimming team’s gold total to 12.
The national para-athletes, who surpassed their golden haul of 20 in the 2017 Malaysian edition after their sweep of the men’s chess P1 individual and team events last Thursday afternoon, hiked their output to 24 golds, 23 silvers and 43 bronzes with swimming’s latest contribution.
They have already exceeded the previous tally of 20 gold, 20 silver and 29 bronze medals the country won in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur five years ago, and, if the 11th ASEAN Para Games official website is to be followed, would place the Philippine campaigners in fourth overall.
The present APG website tally shows Malaysia precariously holding to the fourth place with a tally of 24-13-5.
Philippine Paralympic Committee (PPC) president Mike Barredo credited this sterling showing to the late President Fidel V. Ramos, who had urged Barredo to form the para sports group way back in 1996. PPC was then known as the Philippine Sports Association of Differently-abled Athletes.
Alegarbes, however, thanked his father for introducing him to the sport.
“This is totally unexpected but once again I thank my father Abner for introducing me to swimming so I could overcome my asthma as a young boy,” said Alegarbes, who also won gold and silver medal in the Asian Youth Para Games in Manama, Bahrain last December.
Among those contributing silvers to the Philippine campaign were Marcelo Burgos and Angelo Manangdang, who were seeing action in their first international tournament, in the men’s compound doubles in archery and Andrew Kevin Arandia in the men’s singles event Class 9 of table tennis.
Thailand buried the Philippines in a hail of triples on the way to a 87-36 romp in capturing the men’s wheelchair 5×5 basketball gold at the GOR Sritex Arena.