Ernie Gawilan struggles in Rio Paralympics debut, vows to make up in next two events
Ernie Gawilan got his first taste of Paralympic competition but finished fifth in a field of six in the 400-meter freestyle S8 event.

ERNIE Gawilan, the Philippine's lone swimming entry in the 2016 Rio Paralympics, failed in the first of his three bids to advance to the finals on Thursday (Friday, Manila time).

Gawilan's first crack at a spot to the finals in his dream Paralympics stint ended with a whimper as he finished fifth in a field of six in the first heat of the men’s 400-meter freestyle S8 event, clocking 4:54.24 behind winner Wang Yinan of China who clocked 4:41.10.

Another Chinese swimmer Xu Haijiao finished second with 4:41.18 while Great Britain's Craig Joseph took the last finals spot with 4:41.93.

Ukraine's Hirenko Bodan finished fourth in 4:51.81 while Gawilan came in ahead of USA's Austin Evan (4:56.85). Overall, the Dabawenyo swimmer finished 10th in the event ruled by British tanker Hynd Oliver who set a new world record with 4:21.89.

His loss, however, failed to dampen his spirits as Gawilan vowed to try harder in his remaining two events.

But the 25-year-old Gawilan also noted that his time was seven seconds slower than his personal best, which, even if he matched it, would still not be enough to make it to the finals.

"Kusog kaayo mga time sa naka-sulod sa final. Medyo disappoint jud sir kay taas akong time. Bisan man lang unta ug nag best time wala jud. Pang third hundreds nako nag-collapse akong stroke sir (Those who made the finals submitted very fast times. I am a bit disappointed because my time was slow. I could have just mached my best time but my strokes collapsed in the third hundred)," Gawilan told SPIN.ph in an online interview.

Gawilan also admitted his muscles started to stiffen towards the final push and he lost steam. But he will be back in the pool on September 13 for the 100-meter backstroke heats. In between, there will be competition warm-ups for all participants. 

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