PHILIPPINE Sports Commission (PSC) Chairman William "Butch" Ramirez hailed Tokyo Paralympics-bound Dabawenyo Ernie Gawilan for salvaging a bronze medal for the Philippines in the recently-concluded Internationale Deutsche Meisterschaften (IDM) Berlin 2021 World Para Swimming Series in Berlin, Germany.
Ramirez said he has already known Gawilan as a hardworking swimmer while the latter was still based in Davao City.
The PSC chief, who is currently in Davao City, said, "His attitude and focus brought him success in the paralympic team and international competitions. His discipline and vision for a medal in the Tokyo Paralympics is possible."
Ramirez added, "I saw his confidence after so many international exposures. As a Dabawenyo like him, we will cheer for Ernie to get that Paralympics medal, gold or bronze."
Gawilan clocked five minutes and 3.74 seconds (5:03.74) in men's 400-meter freestyle final to trail behind Arian Notretu of Romania and Marco Ozaeta Velasco of Spain who clinched the gold and silver, respectively. Notretu timed 5:02.10 while Velasco registered 5:00.41.
The 30-year-old Rio 2016 Paralympian earlier completed his review classification race in the 2021 World Para Swimming World Series, according to Philippine para-swimming head coach Tony Ong in a June 18 CNN report.
Gawilan, in a Facebook interview with this writer, thanked the Filipinos who cheered, supported, and prayed for him and his teammates who competed in Berlin.
"Daghang salamat sa ilaha Ma'am labi sa Ginoo nga maoy naghatag ug talent sa mga tawo ug salamat pud sa suporta sa Philippine Sports Commission, bisag pandemic andam gihapon sila sa pag-support sa national athletes (I thank all of them especially God who gives us talents and I also thank the support of the Philippine Sports Commission who, despite the pandemic, still readily gives support to the national athletes)," he said.
From an S8 classification since 2016, Gawilan saw action as an S7 in the men's 400m freestyle event in Berlin. The International Paralympic Committee defines S7 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."
"Ang S8 mas gamay rag disability kaysa S7. Mas kusog pud sila kaysa S7 (The S8 have lesser disabilities than the S7. They are also stronger than S7 athletes)," the Asian Para Games 2018 triple gold medalist said.
He assessed that they were short in training time due to Covid-19 constraints since 2020.
The national para swimming team held a bubble training at the Victoria Sports Tower in Quezon City in May. Before returning to Manila for the team training, Gawilan stayed in his Island Garden City of Samal home where had had his land training. He held his water training in the sea since February 2021 due to inaccessibility of swimming pools during lockdown.