Former SEA Games gold winner being tapped to represent PH in Tokyo Paralympics

    Archand Christian Bagsit
    Archand Christian Bagsit

    HIS eyesight may be severely limited, but track runner and former national athlete Archand Christian Bagsit has a “20-20” vision in what he wants to accomplish in 2021: bag a gold medal, possibly two, in the Tokyo World Paralympic Games.

    “Malaking bagay po ‘yon, gold pa rin po yon,” noted Bagsit, 29, who has been visually impaired since birth but still won an astonishing three Southeast Asian Games gold medals, including the men’s individual 400-meter and 4×400-meter relay mints in the 2013 Myanmar SEA Games.

    “Based on his visual disability, Archand was already classified by an international classifier as T12, or in layman’s terms, he cannot see people and things clearly beyond two to five meters. Everything is a blur from that distance,” national paralympic athletic squad coach Joel Deriada said.

    Bagsit and Deriada were guests in a recent webcast organized by owned by track coach and former Philippine Sports Commission statistician Andrew Pyrie.

    The runner has been inactive after being dropped from the national athletics squad since winning two bronze medals in the men’s 4×100 and 4×400-meter relays of the 2017 Malaysia Games.

    Sensing a huge opportunity, Deriada offered Bagsit a chance to run and qualify for next year’s World Para Games, believing the runner has a strong chance of possibly scoring a golden double in the men’s 100 and 400-meter runs, based on his previous best times in both events.

    “Actually, Bagsit was already part of our national paralympic team for the 10th Asean Para Games that the country was supposed to host but got scrapped due to the novel coronavirus pandemic,” said the coach, who could hardly contain his excitement over his prized find.

    Deriada noted that the athlete’s personal bests were within range of the winning times of the medalists in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, and were in fact better than the qualifying standards of 11.50 seconds and 53.40 seconds, respectively, in the 100 and 400-meter races in the T-12 class.

    In the men’s 400-meter run, Bagsit’s gold-medal winning time of 47.22 seconds in the Myanmar Games would have clinched the mint in the 2016 Rio Para Games, considering that Chinese gold medalist Quichao Sun clocked 48.57 seconds in topping the event.

    His personal best in the century sprint is 10.66 seconds, faster than the gold medal-winning time of 10.97 seconds of Cuban Leiner Savon Pineda in Rio four years ago.

    What sets Bagsit apart from other para athletes, Deriada said, was that “here we have someone who already knows how to race on track unlike some who we have to teach yet from scratch being their first time to compete with other visually-impaired runners.

    “So hindi na mahirap turuan si Archand kasi marunong na siyang tumakbo sa track. May ibang athletes sa ibang bansa na ganuon din ang ginawa ng maging ma-visually impaired sila.”

    The coach also disclosed that the runner’s mentor, Ernie Candelario, is now also a member of the national paralympic athletics coaching staff, “so we were able to convince Bagsit that he is in good hands.”

    Deriada said the Philippine Paralympic Committee headed by Mike Barredo is now in the process of accrediting Bagsit with the International Paralympic Committee so he can be officially registered as a para athlete.

    “You have to have a serial number or SDMS for international para athletes and we’re working on it. He (Bagsit) has to sign some documents,” he said. “Na-delay lang because of the pandemic. But once he is registered with the IPC then he can compete in its sanctioned races.”

    The coach said there are nine IPC Grand Prix races scheduled next year that will serve as World Paralympic qualifiers where Bagsit can run once his credentials are complete.

    The huge chance of vying for the gold in the World Para Games in the Japanese capital next year was not lost on Bagsit.

    “Gaya ng sinabi ni coach Joel baka turning point ko na po ito sakaling maka-qualify at makasali sa World Para Games,” said Bagsit, who lives in Sampaloc, Manila and has been limited to fitness and physical conditioning workouts.

    “Kung makabalik sa actual training, gagawin ko ang lahat para mabakabalik ako sa best (form) ko.”

    In the event he does well, Bagsit has the potential to become the country’s first gold medalist and score a bonanza in the Tokyo Para Games.

    Republic Act 10699, the new incentives law, offers juicy bonuses for Filipino World Paralympics achievers, with the gold medal worth P5 million, silver medal P2.5 million and bronze P1 million.

    The previous best performances by the country in the World Para Games were achieved by powerlifter Adeline Dumapong Ancheta and table tennis player Josephine Medina, who garnered bronze medals in the 2000 Sydney and 2016 Rio Para Games, respectively.