MANILA, Philippines – Fresh off a brilliant 29-medal haul from the 2018 Asian Para Games, the Paralympic Committee of the Philippines (PPC) will now turn its focus to hosting and shooting for a top 3 finish in the upcoming 2020 ASEAN Para Games in Manila.
Based on the continental games standings, the Philippines placed 4th behind Malaysia, Thailand and host country Indonesia which marks a good sign of improvement from the 2017 ASEAN Para Games' 5th-place finish.
"We're preparing of course for the eventual 2020 hosting of the ASEAN Para Games. They are still the teams to beat when we were in Kuala Lumpur," said Team Para Philippines chef de mission Francis "Kiko" Diaz in a mix of English and Filipino.
"Every time we engage and are given an opportunity to play in an international competition, dapat mahigitan na ang past performance natin so 'pag gano'n thinking, hanggang No. 1, puwede natin makuha." (We should be able to surpass our past performances so with that thinking, we can reach No. 1.)
Philippines leaped from 23rd place in the 2014 Incheon Games to a best finish of 11th place in the Jakarta edition with an unexpected 10-gold medal haul thanks to quadruple chess gold medalist Sander Severino and swimmer Ernie Gawilan.
More than climbing the international ranks, the PPC hopes that its bemedalled sector will attact more supporters in order to develop its grassroots program heading into the biennial meet.
"We're looking at grassroots development. We need to improve on some younger players coming in, women coming in, other disability groups that have to be better represented," said PPC president Michael Barredos. "It's going to be a challenge because we will need close to about 200 athletes in the ASEAN Para Games we will host."
The PPC has plans of scouting for young talent around the country through a program called Sports Without Borders, where the organization will be conducting orientations on paralympic sports with a goal of attracting differently-abled Filipinos into sports.
With the country's national para athletes proving their worth all through these years, the PPC hopes that more Filipinos – both abled and differently-abled – will be inspired to take part in its journey to push for inclusion in society.
"I think with this accomplishment and achievement [the national para athletes] have done, [they] will be able to show to all Filipinos that people with disabilities are to be looked at not for their disabilities, but for their abilities," added Barredos.
"We showed that Asian athletes showed inclusion in the area of Asia, and I think in the Philippines, they have just proven that through sports we can make this an inclusive society."
The Manila ASEAN Para Games is slated to be held in January 2020 where para athletes from 11 Southeast Asian countries will see action among 16 sports. – Rappler.com