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Philippine obstacle course athletes haul medals in world championships

By MYLENE MENDOZA-DAYRIT, The Philippine STAR Published Nov 14, 2023 10:09 am

The Pilipinas Obstacle Sports Federation (POSF), through its president Atty. Al Agra, notified us that our National Adaptive Athletes won 10 medals at the OCR 100M and 3k OCR Short Course, P2-P4, and P-5 categories during the World Obstacle OCR World Championships held in Belgium last September. 

In the 3k Short Course category, Julius Jun Obrero won gold in P2-2 while Aga Casidsid won gold in P5. Kent Tumangan got silver in P4 while Calib Sim Jr. got the bronze in the same event. Andrea Estrella got the bronze in the Elite Female Adaptive category.

In the 100M P2-P4, the gold medal went to Renson Embradura, the silver to Kent Tumangan, and the bronze to Calib Sim Jr. That’s a sweep! The P5 Male Gold went to Aga Casidsid while the P5 Female Gold went to Andrea Estrella.

While the adaptive athletes brought home more medals, the abled athletes won podium finishes as well. Kaizen dela Serna bagged the bronze medal in OCR100M, while Precious Cabuya got the silver. Kevin Pascua got the gold medal to be the world champion in OCR100M.

Winners all: Beaming with pride (from left) are bronze medalist Kaizen de la Serna, gold medalist Kevin Pascua, and silver medalist Precious Cabuya. A female athlete from Poland got the gold medal in the OCR100M where these two ladies placed, while the silver and bronze in the male category that Pascua dominated went to male athletes from Poland as well.

“There is no substitute for hard work, consistency, and passion. Our national athletes possessed and demonstrated these during the World Obstacle OCR Championships. They are truly world-class. They are heroes. Proud to be a Filipino,” Agra said in a Facebook post of the Pilipinas Obstacle Sports Federation.

Kent Tumangan, a 27-year-old para athlete from Mandaue, lost a leg to bone cancer when he was a teenager. He suffered from depression and lost hope. Prayer and self-evaluation led him to sports. He tried every sport for PWDs—from wheelchair basketball to sitting volleyball—to divert his attention from self-pity and hopelessness.

Proud Filipino para-athletes ruled the 100M P2-P4 category: Gold medalist Renson Embradura, whose inspiring life was featured in a TV drama starring Ruru Madrid, with second placer Kent Tumangan and third placer Calib Sim Jr.

Eventually, he joined the PADS Adaptive Dragonboat Racing team and found fulfillment there. He competes with abled bodies from other teams. Their team is competitive and has won the right to compete in other countries. 

“That’s what I like about (dragon boat) because our opponents are people without disabilities. Our team is composed of people with disabilities, and our team is competitive. We compete and win overseas,” he shared. Aside from dragon boat racing, Kent also found a new passion in obstacle course racing.

The best gift he said he has received from the national team is his self-confidence. The team restored his self-worth and instilled discipline in him.

Before sports, he was sedentary and was always on his phone. Sports changed his daily routine. He wakes up early, he works out. He has learned time management. Soon enough, sports became his passion.

He said that he works hard to build the strength of his one leg, which is responsible for bearing his weight. He appreciates the strength and conditioning he gets from exercise which prepares him for his sports and prevents injuries.

“Get out of your comfort zone. Seek God and pray. Approach others who can help you, coach you, and mentor you. Don’t hesitate to seek help or advice from them. Sports do not discriminate whether you are a person with a disability or an abled body. Sports restores confidence and inspires people,” Kent said.

“It is a great privilege for me to play sports and represent our country abroad in tournaments. To the youth out there who want to be professional athletes, do your best and stay consistent. Employ hard work, discipline, determination, and perseverance. Be an inspiration to others

“I almost gave up on life after losing my leg. I thought it was the end, but sports lifted me and changed my life. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be able to reach this far and compete with the strongest athletes in one of the biggest stages in obstacle sports in our country,” he posted on Instagram before a competition in Arcovia last March.

“To all young people with disabilities who are still afraid to come out in the open, this competition is for you all. May you find the strength to take the first step and liberate yourselves from the bondage of your disabilities,” he declared.

Renson Embradura, on the other hand, is a famous one-legged runner in Sariaya Quezon. The 32-year-old Renson joined the OCR team upon the invitation of his friend. The para-athlete was apprehensive at first, but he soon learned to appreciate OCR. 

He went against the warning of his family, who feared for him when he first joined the team. “They were afraid that I might run into an accident, but I wanted to prove something. I wanted to show my peers that disabilities do not hinder a person, as long as they have the determination to pursue their goals and reach the finish line,” he said.

From a depressed and hopeless teenager who lost a leg, Kent Tumangan is now an empowered athlete who finds fulfillment in competing against those without disabilities.

Kent and Renson are part of this year’s Better Today: Power Move Project to celebrate World Mental Health Month. An advocacy supported by PLDT Inc. (PLDT) and its wireless unit Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart), together with partners MVP Sports Foundation and Football for Humanity, this video series aims to champion mental health and wellness through sports and inspiring stories of Filipino para-athletes and coaches who embody the true meaning of persistence, bravery, and mental resilience.

This initiative is also aligned with the Group’s commitment to helping the country achieve UN Sustainable Development Goal No. 10 on reducing inequality by empowering and promoting the social, economic, and political inclusion of all, including persons with disabilities, and uplift and improve the overall digital wellness of Filipinos, underscoring the commitment of PLDT and Smart to the UN SDG No. 3: Good Health and Well-Being.