After HK victory, PADS aims for Chicago

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The PADS (Philippine Accessibility Disability Services Inc.) Adaptive Dragon Boat Racing Team

SOME of them arrived on wheelchairs while others were on crutches, but physical disability did not stop the PADS (Philippine Accessibility Disability Services Inc.) Adaptive Dragon Boat Racing Team from Cebu from winning again at the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival on June 24.

For the second straight year, PADS won the gold medal at the carnival’s International Paradragon Championship race held at Pier 10 in Central. Around 90 percent of the team is composed of people with different disabilities—amputees, people with hearing disabilities, and people who had polio.

“We are happy that our preparations paid off. We want to inspire people with disabilities that, through sport, they can show their other gifts,” team leader Arnold Balais told Hong Kong News.

“In our country, when you have a physical disability, you are hidden. So, this is one way that they can go out, become active, and realize that they still have a part to play in our communities,” he said.

Balais said PADS’ main purpose is “to reach out and encourage PWDs in the entire Philippines that there is hope.”

“And we have inspired many. This team is unique. It’s the pride of the Philippines because we carry the Philippines every time we compete abroad,” he said.

Team coach Christian Ian Sy said they prepared for three months for the race in Victoria Harbour and, in the last three weeks, they hit the water every day to train and defend their crown.

“It feels good to see the fruits of our preparation because we were able to defend our championship,” Balais said. “We felt the pressure because many in the Philippines were expecting that we were going to win again. And we did.”

After retaining their crown in Hong Kong, the 47-member team will participate in Ormoc City’s first dragon boat cup and plans to join the Chicago International Dragon Boat Festival this month, said team manager JP Encarma Maunes said.

“We were invited to Chicago next month but we’re still unsure because we have yet to find a sponsor,” Maunes said.

“We really want to compete in Chicago because we are not just competing there. We were also invited to train on adaptive sports and health,” he said.

Maunes said other cities in the Philippines—like Ormoc—and dragon boat teams from Japan, China, and Taiwan now want to form their own paradragon team after seeing PADS’ performance.

“This is the message we want to send–that sports is a big equalizer. Everyone gets to participate and there is no discrimination. Everyone gets to express and exert their right to participate,” he said.

“We proved that persons with disabilities, and those without, can appear alongside together within sports,” he added.

Maunes said the team was also looking forward to coming back to Hong Kong next year to defend their crown.

“We competed last year and we won. This time, we came back to defend our title. We look forward to our three-peat (next year),” he said.

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