Filipino para-tracksters aim to qualify for Tokyo Paralympics

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 7) – Veteran Paralympians Jerrold Mangliwan and Andy Javellana will join runner Archand Bagsit in seeking a Tokyo Paralympics berth in the World Para Athletics Grand Prix 2021.

The tournament - which will be held on May 14-16 in Nottwil, Switzerland - is the lone chance for the three Filipino para-athletes to qualify for the Tokyo Paralympiad.

The 29-year-old partially blind Bagsit will try to meet the Paralympic qualifying times of 11.10 seconds in the T12 100 meter event and 50.40 seconds in the 400 meter category.

Mangliwan, who competed in the 2016 Rio Paralympics, will vie for his second straight Paralympic appearance as he competes in the T52 100m, 400m, and 1,500m events, which are played by wheelchair racers.

High jumper Avellana, who represented the country in the 2012 London edition, will attempt for a Paralympic return by participating in the T42 high jump event for para-athletes with one leg.

National team head coach Joel Deriada told CNN Philippines he is upbeat of the three para-athletes' chances for a Tokyo Games qualification since they met the qualifying marks during practice, or in some tournaments that are not sanctioned by the International Paralympic Committee.

"The key for us now is to maintain their strength and conditioning so that they can hit the qualifying marks during the actual tournament in Switzerland," Deriada said.

Deriada shared that during the pandemic, the para-tracksters have been mostly training on their own at home because of the closure of sports facilities.

"It was hard because before, we are more focused in their strength and conditioning. Due to the pandemic, we are mostly into virtual workouts. But when quarantine restrictions were relaxed, our athletes had to find a way to train outdoors like going to a nearby park," he said.

Mangliwan shared to CNN Philippines he has been utilizing wheelchair rollers for training in his home in Bulacan. He admitted it was not enough because there is no mechanism to measure his speed using the equipment. But he emphasized the physical and mental challenges of training amid the pandemic make him hungrier for a possible Paralympic return.

"Despite the complicated situation at present, I will not waste my chance to qualify for Tokyo. I'm nearing the twilight of my career that's why I'm focusing in strengthening my endurance, so I can perform at my best in this tournament," Mangliwan said.

Meanwhile, Bagsit hopes he can run in his best shape towards his possible Paralympic debut.

"The Paralympics is the highest level of competition for us. It will be a big achievement for me to represent our country in the Paralympics," he said.

The Tokyo Paralympics is slated from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5.