Ariel Joseph Alegarbes made a splashing debut in the 11th Asean Para Games Monday, capturing two gold medals in record-breaking style at the Jatidiri Sports Complex pool in Semarang.
In front of a lean yet animated Filipino crowd, among them his father Abner, Alegarbes had an unforgettable outing in ruling the men’s 100-meter backstroke S14 event in thrilling fashion, surging in the last 10 meter to win the race by a touch in one minute and .03.01 seconds.
He nipped Malaysia’s Muhammad Imaan Aiman, who had wrested the lead at the 75-meter mark but lost steam and settled for silver in 1:03.20, while Thailand’s Mrjirachot Chuvong was a distant third and took the bronze medal (1:11.68).
Barely taking a breather, the 18-year-old Victoria, Negros Oriental pride was back at the pool, but this time led from start to finish in handily winning the men’s 50-butterfly S14 in 26.43 seconds, completing a golden double in his rookie stint in the biennial meet.
On top of being the country’s first double gold medalist in the meet, Alegarbes established new meet records in both events, first smashing the five-year-old mark of 1:03.60 in the 100-meter backstroke set by Indonesia’s Muhammad in the 2017 Kuala Lumpur Asean Para Games.
He also bested by nearly four seconds the joint record of 30.01 seconds held by Malaysian W.Y. Chung and Indonesian D. Nugruho also competed in the same Games in the Malaysian capital.
“I feel like I am about to explode because I was not expecting this. This is for my father who led me into swimming. Without him I wouldn’t be here,” said Alegarbes, who suffers from ADHD with learning disability and dyslexia, while handing both gold medals to his delighted father.
“Of course, I am very proud of my son and I am glad to witness his accomplishment,” said the elder Alegarbes, who left his work as a construction worker to look after his son after learning of his son’s physical challenge at an early age through the advice of his late psychologist brother.
Alegarbes’s success was a brilliant follow-up to his winning one gold and one silver medal in the 100-meter butterfly S14 and 100-meter backstroke S14, respectively, in the Asian Youth Para Games held in Manama, Bahrain last December.
Veteran Ernie Gawilan, who won the men’s 400-meter freestyle S7 event last Monday, settled for silver in the men’s 100-meter backstroke S7 in 1:21.13 for the other swimming medal of the day in the stint supported by the Philippine Sports Commission.
The country’s track and field team likewise continued to have a productive campaign Tuesday morning at the Manahan Stadium here with runner and newcomer King James Reyes and veteran thrower Jesebel Tordecilla in boosting the athletic haul to four golds and counting.
Reyes topped the men’s 5,000-meter race T46 event, his time pending confirmation from meet officials, while Tordecilla took the gold with her heave of 14.21 meters on her third attempt.
A gold medalist in the women’s javelin throw T54 last Monday, Cendy Asusano added a bronze to her collection in the women’s discus throw, which was the same medals won by Ron Russel Mitra and Evaristo Carbonel in the men’s long jump T20 and men’s discus throw F11-13, respectively.
With the production of swimming and athletics combined for the day, the PH para-athletes had nine gold, six silver and 15 bronze medals as they pressed to eclipse the tally of 20 golds, 20 silvers and 29 bronzes in winding up fifth overall in 2017.
There might be more golds in the offing later in the day in athletics as well as chess where FIDE Master Sander Severino winning their fifth and penultimate round matches to virtually ensure the country of at least four gold medals in the P1 and B2-B3 classes.
Severino, who bagged four golds in the 2018 Jakarta Asian Para Games, bested fellow FIDE Master Maksum Firdaus of Indonesia while rookie Bernardo repulsed Vietnam’s Duong Hien Vuong to seize top spot in their respective classes with 4.5 points apiece.
Severino was up against National Master Henry Lopez while Bernardo was taking on teammate Arman Subaste in the final round scheduled in the afternoon. (PNA)