Ernie Gawilan formalizes Tokyo Paralympics stint after hurdling review classification race

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 18) – Nothing can stop the country's top para-swimmer Ernie Gawilan from competing in the upcoming Tokyo Paralympics.

Philippine para-swimming team head coach Tony Ong confirmed to CNN Philippines that the 30-year-old Gawilan successfully completed on Thursday his review classification race in the 2021 World Para Swimming World Series held at Berlin, Germany.

The Davao native finished fifth in his heat in the 100-meter breaststroke race with 1 minute and 44.89 seconds, not enough for him to qualify in the final race.

The World Para Swimming said a review classification race is designed to "minimize the impact of impairment" on their sport, which may affect their ability to perform in different sports to a different extent.

Gawilan is now classified as S7, which the International Paralympic Committee defined as para-swimmers with "one leg and one arm amputation on opposite sides, or a paralysis of one arm and one leg on the same side."

In the breaststroke event, Gawilan is under the SB7 or "swimmers who have an amputation of one arm and with significant restrictions across hip, knee and ankle joints."

With his new classification, Gawilan is now eligible to join the Tokyo Paralympics, where he is expected to compete in the 400-meter freestyle, 100-meter backstroke, and 200-meter individual medley events.

Meanwhile, Gary Bejino and Arnel Aba also failed to advance in the final round of their respective events.

Aba placed ninth out of 10 swimmers in the 100-meter butterfly heat race with a time of one minute and 30.23 seconds. Bejino settled for a sixth place finish in the 100-meter freestyle heat, clocking in one minute and 17.85 seconds.

Despite failing to qualify in the final races, Ong emphasized the Berlin meet is a good step for the para-swimmers to get immersed again in the water after months of having no competitions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"What is important is our competitors see that we are still active in the pool," Ong said.

The Berlin swimming competition will run until June 20, Sunday.