A casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic was one-armed taekwondo jin Alain Ganapin, whose bid to compete in the Tokyo Paralympic Games in 2021 was derailed after he was struck down by the virus just a few days before he was to go and see action in the Japanese capital.
That painful what-might-have-been experience was etched in the memory of the Marikina native, who vowed to work hard and rekindle his Olympic dream, no matter the cost and sacrifice required.
The grinding journey to the Paris Paralympic Games began in May 2022 when he ruled the men’s -70-kilogram division of the Asian Para Games Qualification Tournament held in Sharjah, the United Arab Emirates, punching a ticket to the 4th Hangzhou Asian Para Games.
“Hindi biro po yung pinagdaanan po namin, especially dahil nung nangyari sa Tokyo na na-miss po namin. Kaya naging emosyonal po ako ng manalo sa qualifying sa Asian Para Games,” said Ganapin in an interview with personal coach Gershon Bautista by his side.
Bautista said that the athlete has not only been undergoing rigorous training the last three months at the Philippine Taekwondo Association Central Gym inside the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex, but also intense physical conditioning for this meet.
“He (Ganapin) is better off now compared to three months ago. Kapag sparring, nahihirapan na rin ang mga kalaban ni Alain,” Bautista noted of his tuneup matches with some of the able-bodied national team members, among them celebrated veteran and Southeast Asian Games champ Samuel Morrison.
“We believe he (Ganapin) has achieved a good fitness level for him to perform well in this Asian Para Games,” said the coach, adding that the athlete’s strength and stamina levels were at par before being stricken by the virus, if not better.
“Hopefully yung naipundar namin ni Alain in his strength and conditioning for this event will be more than enough,” added the coach in the maiden outing of his ward in the sportsfest backed by the Philippine Sports Commission
Proof that Ganapin was back in competitive shape was last July when he bagged a bronze in the Australian Open, an Olympic ranking qualifying competition.
Hence he will be killing two birds with one stone in achieving a podium finish in his debut here.
“Kapag mag-podium finish si Alain, tataas din po yung world ranking niya,” explained Bautista, who revealed that his ward is currently ranked No. 24 in the world ratings. “He has a bigger chance of making it to Paris if he is within the top 20 in the world because this event has more qualifying points.”
“Yung maka-compete sa Paralympic Games ang aming ultimate goal ni coach. Nais ko na matapos ng event ng maayos at makauwi ng medalya,” said the athlete with determination in his voice.
The country has never had a taekwondo jin competing in the Paralympic Games, and should everything go according to plan, Ganapin is keen on being the one by going all-out for golden glory at the 4th Hangzhou Asian Para Games here.