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Ernie Gawilan, Gary Bejino want to make mark in Tokyo Paralympics

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Paralympic swimmers Ernie Gawilan and Gary Bejino never thought of their disabilities as a hindrance to achieving their goals.

Gawilan was born with underdeveloped extremities but that did not stop him from becoming the world-class swimmer that he is.

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“Masasabi lang natin na PWD (Person With Disability) tayo kapag hindi na tayo nakakagalaw, pero kung kaya naman gumalaw at saka nakakapag-isip pa naman ay may pag-asa pa para mabago ‘yong sarili mo at mabago mo ‘yong hinaharap mo,” Gawilan said in a report on Stand for Truth.

Gawilan started his swimming career in 2003 with the help of a non-government organization in Samal, Davao del Norte.

“‘Yong foundation na ‘yon may-ari sila ng beach resort sa Samal Island, doon ko unang natuklasan ang pagsu-swimming ko dahil ‘yon nga ilang metro lang ano sa dagat na kasi,” he said.

“Inofferan ako na ‘yon nga na maglaro sa national team. Doon napasok ako ng national team noong 2009 hanggang sa ngayon,” he added.

With his determination and passion for the sport, Gawilan became the country’s first-ever gold medalist in the Asian Para Games in the men’s 200-meter individual medley S7 in 2018.

Meanwhile, Bejino, who lost his right arm and left leg when he was 7 years old, said he owes his life to swimming.

“Nag-stop na kong mag-aral, ayun eh sabi ko wala naman akong ginagawa, tiniis ko na lang din kahit mahirap. Pi-nush ko na lang din ang sarili ko dahil ito na lang ‘yung pagkaka-abalahan ko eh,” he said.

Bejino won gold in the men’s 400-meter freestyle in the 2015 ASEAN Para Games. He also captured silver and two bronze medals in the 2018 Asian Para Games.

And now, the two swimmers are taking these experiences to the 2020 Tokyo Summer Paralympics. — Ma. Angelica Garcia/BAP, GMA News

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