Filipino para-swimmer Ernie Gawilan has been through plenty of emotional turmoil in his life - but even he had to do a double take when he won the men's 400m freestyle S8 final yesterday at the OCBC Aquatic Centre.
Gawilan, whose mother tried to abort him to conceal an affair, won in a Games record time of 4min 48.49sec, lowering his previous mark of 5:03.09.
In doing so, the 24-year-old, whose legs and left arm are not fully grown, went under the Paralympic cut of 4:49.29, becoming the first male swimmer from his country to qualify for the Paralympics.
Yesterday, the swimmer, who was raised by his grandfather, said: "I had to take another look at the scoreboard because I couldn't believe it. I've been training hard in the 400m free for a year, and I've been eyeing this every day.
"This was my last chance to qualify. I got goosebumps when I realised I had made it."
Next up for Gawilan, who also bagged a silver in the 100m free S8 last Friday, is the 200m individual medley SM8 (SM7-SM8) tomorrow.
After that, he will head home for a three-week break before resuming twice-daily, six-days-a-week training, as he gears up for a good showing in Rio de Janeiro.
The swimmer added: "I want to thank my coaches and team-mates, who motivate me to work hard every day, and everyone who believed in me."
Also in good spirits was Singapore swimmer Theresa Goh, who made it four golds in four events when she won the 200m free S5 yesterday evening.
She led the field in a Games record time of 3:38.04, finishing ahead of Vietnam pair Nguyen Thi Den (4:46.35) and Danh Thi My Thanh (4:47.64).
Singapore's other medal from day three of the swimming meet came from Toh Wei Soong, who finished behind Gawilan in the men's 400m free S8.
It has been a meet of rediscovery for the 28-year-old Goh, with coach Mick Massey praising her earlier for "re-launching" her career.
She said: "I rediscovered (the fire) this year and that's why everything is looking really good and it's a positive and exciting future."
On what prompted her resurgence, Goh said: "Basically deciding that I really want to do this. I'm really lucky to be in Singapore and to be given so many opportunities.
"The fact that there might be another 'me' in the future - someone who swims as fast as I do - also keeps me motivated (to race fast every time)."
Goh, who has three more events to come, said that, while fatigue is setting in, she is dreading the final day of competition.
She said: "I don't want it to end because it's so awesome. Winning doesn't get tiring."
Whisper it if you must, but she is on track to make it seven golds in seven events. Not that she is losing sleep over it.
Asked about the prospect, the swimmer said: "I don't really look at the medals, but the hope is there... it'll be nice, for sure."
This article was first published on December 7, 2015.
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