Paralympian Jerrold Pete Mangliwan once described the intense physical challenges he’s subjected to training as a wheelchair racer. Oftentimes, there’s that burning feeling in his stomach, he said, as he tries to push himself to the limits. His knees get numb for being in the same position for a long time. His fingers are often covered with bandages, he said, as they often get bruised for hitting the wheels.
But he’s not complaining. “Yung physical pain kasi, kayang i-overcome ng utak yan e,” Jerrold told Rappler. “Hindi sumasagi sa utak ko na mag-quit na ako.”
This “never say die” attitude was also what brought the 41-year-old athlete to the Paralympic Games currently happening in Tokyo. On Friday morning, Jerrold, who clocked in at 1:03.41, was the fourth fastest athlete in Heat 1. He finished seventh overall in the qualifying stage which earned him a spot in the men’s 400m T52 finals. He missed his shot though after being disqualified in the final rankings.
His goal, he says, is to surpass his performance in the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games where he placed 7th overall in the 400-meter T52 wheelchair race. T52 is the category for athletes who use their shoulder, elbow and wrist muscles to propel their wheelchair. They don’t have the fine motor skills in their fingers and hands, and typically have zero muscle power in the trunk.
Jerrold was a late-bloomer in sports. The Kalinga native only started his wheelchair racing career in 2009 when he was already 30 years old. But four years prior, he had tried other sports such as wheelchair basketball and even sailing.
Jerrold lost his leg function due to polio complications at age two and did not have the confidence to try sports when he was younger. “Sometimes, you weren’t made to feel welcome at a basketball court and sports gym,” he told The Straits Times in 2015.
Wanting to test his muscle strength, he joined a wheelchair racer friend on the road in 2009. Together, they rode their wheelchairs from Montalban to Cubao. Five hours, non-stop. Jerrold thought he would not survive the long drive but he did. In fact, he had fun.
Jerrold continued his training and eventually became a member of the Philippine Para Athletics Team. But it wasn’t easy.
For one, he needed to drive his wheelchair back and forth from Caloocan, where he was staying with a sibling, to the training venue in Ultra, Pasig. “Mahirap pa kasi mag-travel noon ‘pag PWD ka, ang dami pang kailangan,” he told Spin, referring to accessibility issues.
His hard work and dedication eventually paid off. In 2015, Jerrold earned two gold medals and one silver medal at the ASEAN Para Games in Singapore. It was the result of six months of training almost daily—lifting dumbbells and fine-tuning his rolling routines on the track.
“It’s all about staying calm and true to the way you spin the wheel, regardless of what's happening around you,” he told The Straits Times. “When you look at the medals, what it means for the Philippines, all the pain and repetition is worth it.”
The year 2016 was a memorable one for Jerrold. It was when the Magna Carta for Persons with Disability (RA 10754) was signed into law. It expanded the benefits and privileges of PWDs. It was also the first time Jerrold represented the country in the Summer Paralympic Games in Brazil.
While already in his 40s, Jerrold isn’t thinking of retirement yet. By being a para-athlete, he hopes to put the spotlight on the struggles and challenges of PWDs in the country. “Andon na ‘yung recognition, pero may mga kailangan pang trabahuhin,” he told Spin.
Also, he still has a goal to fulfill. “Wala pang lalaking nagme-medal sa Paralympics. Isa ‘yan sa goal natin,” he said. Since the Philippines began joining the Paralympic Games in 1988, it has so far won only two medals, both bronze—thanks to powerlifter Adeline Dumapong (2000) and table tennis athlete Josephine Medina (2016).
Jerrold said he and his fellow Paralympians are very much in high spirits after Hidilyn Diaz and company brought home medals in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. “Nakakatuwa lang na nasa history books na tayo. Goal namin i-duplicate ang ginawa nila.”
Jerrold will be competing in the 100m and 1500m events.