Text by MIKHAIL FRANZ FLORES and VINCENT GO
Photos and Video by VINCENT GO
The Philippines is fielding its largest delegation of persons with disability (PWD) to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Butch Weber, secretary general of the Philippine Sports Association for the Differently Abled—National Paralympic Committee of the Philippines (Philspada-NPC), said the nine athletes comprise the largest PWD delegation since the country first started joining in 2000.
The Paralympic Games will be held from August 29 to September 9. For this year's quadrennial event, the vision is to "use the power of the Games to inspire lasting change."
The Paralympics serves as the counterpart of the Olympics for athletes with disabilities and are scheduled two to three weeks after the Olympics.
Four of the nine PWD athletes will compete in athletics, which are events that test "speed, strength, power and stamina. " Athletics is billed as the largest sport at the Paralympic Games with a total of 1,100—740 men and 360 women—competing, its website said.
The qualifiers include Marites Burce in javelin throw, discuss throw and shotput, Andy Avellana in high jump, Roger Tapia in the 200-meter sprint and Isidro Vildosola in the 1500-meter run.
The International Paralympics Committee (IPC) classified the 36-year-old Bruce as an F54 or a wheelchair user athlete with minimal muscle strength on the torso.
Avellana, 35, is playing in the F42 classification, which means he has a lower limb amputation above the knee.
Thirty-six-year Vildosola and 21-year-old Tapia are classified as T46—athletes competing on the tracks with an upper limb amputation above the elbow.
The IPC is the global governing body of the Paralympic movement which organizes summer and winter Paralympic games every four years. The IPC also acts as the International Federation which supervises international competitions for athletes with disabilities.
The IPC is run by 200 members representing different countries and envisions "to enable Paralympic athletes to achieve sporting excellence and inspire and excite the world."
The Filipino PWD athletes are training at the Philippine Sports Commission Complex in Pasig City under the supervision of Joel Deriada, an athletics coach from Philspada-NPC.
Philspada serves as a national sports association of persons with disability in line with the government's "sports for all" policy. It also envisions a society where PWDs actively participate in sustainable sports activities leading to their optimal well-being and excellence in sports and create a comprehensive nationwide sports development program.
According to Deriada, the increase in qualifiers was mainly attributed to a stronger national sports organization catering to differently-abled athletes and increased funding and support from the national government.
"We are now on the right track, unlike before," Deriada said.
Deriada added that Philspada-NPC is now considered a National Sports Association and is provided with regular budget allocations.
Three power lifters, a swimmer and a table tennis player who are PWDs will also complete the nine-person Philippine team to the Paralympics.
Adelyn Dumapong -Ancheta will lift weights in the 85 kg division while Jingky Guion and Augustin Kitan are playing in the 48kg and 52kg division, respectively. Josephine Medina will compete in table tennis and Bea Roble will participate in swimming.
(This story is part of Reporting on Persons With Disability, a project of VERA Files in partnership with The Asia Foundation and AusAid. VERA Files is put out by senior journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. VERA is Latin for true.)