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Pinoy PWD team wins dragon boat gold trophy

06 June 2017

Shouting “Pilipinas! Pilipinas!,” a team of Filipino paddlers with disabilities celebrated at the Tamar seafront on Sunday, June 4, after clinching the championship in the Paradragon race of the Hong Kong International Dragon Boat Festival 2017.

The victory was a dream fulfilled for members of the PADS Adaptive Dragonboat Racing Team, made up entirely of persons with disabilities including the deaf, blind, amputees, and polio survivors.

Delegation leader and former PADS chief executive JP Maunes promised hours before the championship race that the team would give the nation “a fight to remember”. He kept that promise.

The Filipinos, mostly with leg problems and with at least four of them amputees and one wheelchair-bound, beat their rivals around the world to snare the gold trophy for the country and a gold medal each for the 30 or so team members.

Some 4,000 paddlers comprising dozens of teams competed for trophies and honors in 24 events that were held on a section of Victoria Harbour on the Tamar side starting on June 2 and concluding with the last of the 500-meter standard boat races that included the Paradragon event on Sunday afternoon.

“We shall give a good fight, a fight that everyone will remember, a fight far more bigger than this race,” Maunes wrote on the PADS Facebook page on Sunday.

“This is the fight for the thousands of Filipinos who have been deprived of their inherent dignity and humanity because of their disabilities. Forced by society to hide in the shadows of denial, shame and doubt…We are bringing their fight here in the international rough waters of Hong Kong,” Maunes declared. 

The team started with measured pace under the command of drumbeater and then the paddlers picked up speed at the halfway mark, sending their boat slicing through the surface of the Victoria Harbour waters as it beat off the challenge from the rivals.

After crossing the finished line, the team members raised their paddles in a victory sign as the crowd of OFWs and Filipino tourists joined the team members on shore as they began shouting “Pilipinas” with pride, their tears flowing freely.

“Thank you po sa mga naniwala sa amin at hindi bumitaw sa amin,” team coach Christian Ian Sy, a polio survivor, said in a video feed as he cried with joy.

Sy thanked those who sponsored the team, including “Mommy Ty” who, he said, brought the delegation to Hong Kong.

“Alam kong despite our many lapses, binigyan mo pa rin kami ng chance,” Sy said.

Just a week before the race, Sy made an appeal on Facebook for kindhearted individuals who would be willing to sponsor the paddlers’ travel tax, terminal fee and other peripheral expenses they would incur on their Hong Kong trip. 

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