WO-TIME Paralympian swimmer Ernie Gawilan of Davao City defended his men's 400-meter freestyle S7 gold medal at the Jatadiri Sports Complex pool in the neighboring city of Semarang, Indonesia as Team Philippines opened its 11th Asean Para Games campaign on a high note with three golds as of Monday press time, August 1, 2022.

Gawilan, 31, topped his favorite event anew, clocking four minutes and 54.87 seconds to race past Thailand's Kaweewat Sittichaiphonniti (5:55.120) and Indonesia's Suriansyah Suriansyah (6:4.950) who settled for the silver and bronze, respectively.

"Happy ko na ma-defend nako akong event pero medyo taas gamay akong record ganina kay akong best time gyud is 4:48. Medyo kulba gamay kay kada lumba nako akong mga time jud akong gina-race pirmi (I'm happy to defend my event although my record increased a bit as my best time is 4:48. I was a bit nervous since every time I compete, I race against my time)," said the veteran tanker who was scheduled to compete in the men's 4X100 freestyle medley as of this writing.

Gawilan, who was born without legs, said that beating his personal best time is indeed a challenge, citing his age and the difficulty to transition in the 400m freestyle event.

The swimming ace woke up in a sunny mood, eating a light breakfast of "kakanin" as he didn't want to feel bloated during the race. He said while he still has events left, he makes sure to control his diet.

He told SunStar Davao on Sunday, July 31, that he is aiming to defend his golds and with the 400m-freestyle already secured, he is halfway done in his mission. He is eyeing another gold in the 200m individual medley (IM). He dominated these two events in the Kuala Lumpur edition of the biennial games in 2017.

The 2018 Jakarta Asian Para Games triple gold medalist Gawilan will also compete in 100m backstroke and 4X100 medley relay events.

He thanked God for permitting the games to continue, the Philippine Sports Commission for their constant support for para sports, even if the times are challenging, and those who believed in them.

His teammates Roland Sabido and Arnel Aba grabbed a 1-2 finish in the men’s 400-meter freestyle S9, registering a time of 5:09.40 and 5:14.13, respectively.

Thrower Cendy Asusano bagged the country's third gold for the day after topping the women’s javelin throw F54 at the Manahan Stadium.

She, who heaved the iron ball to a distance of 13.72 meters, said, “Masaya po ako kasi hindi ko akalain na makukuha ko yung ginto sa unang bato pa lang (I'm happy since I did not expect to win the gold in my first attempt).”

The athletics team also produced bronzes courtesy of Joel Balatucan, Daniel Enderes Jr., Armand Dino and Jesebel Tordecilla in the men’s shot put F55, men’s 5,00-meter T20 race, men’s 100-meter T47 race, and women’s discus throw F55, respectively.