Defying the Odds

Two young athletes refuse to let their disabilities get in the way of their dreams.

Published May 16, 2017

Roger Crawford, the first and only person in American history to be a professional tennis player with a severe disability, once said, “being challenged in life is inevitable, being defeated is optional.”

Here in Taguig City, two young swimmers are fighting for their place in the sporting world — Edmar Mamaclay, a teen who lost his leg in a bus crash; and Judy Ann Neblasca, who would not be defined by her intellectual disability.

Mamaclay, a bus crash survivor, only started competing in December 2016, but he has already won at least 10 medals since then. These include five gold medals in the National Capital Region meet.

“I was in an accident when I was seven years old. The bus we were on was hit by an oil tanker, and my left leg got caught in the window,” he recalled.

“We were on our way to his uncle for a going-away party,” shared Mamaclay’s mother, Teresa. “We were in the Tandang Sora area when our bus was hit. His leg had to be amputated. I thought he was going to be gone from our lives then.”

“I wish I had been the one to get hurt. My son was so young. He still had his whole life ahead of him,” she added while holding back tears.

In the 2017 Palarong Pambansa Special Games, Edmar finished fifth in Freestyle and Back Stroke, and sixth in the Breast Stroke categories.

“When I asked around, my competitors then had already been joining the Palarong Pambansa for four years. While that made me nervous, I took courage and stayed focused on my goal to swim,” he said.

He credits his victories to his faith in God and the undying support from his loved ones. “Trust that the Lord has plans for our lives because He has designed one for each of us,” he said.

He does not only excel in swimming — Mamaclay is also a consistent honor student with several academic awards such as: Best in Science, Best in Social Studies, Best in Filipino, and Best in Technology and Livelihood Education.

“My family and friends don’t make me feel like I’m different. They treat me like a normal kid, and when I have trouble doing things, I always have friends to motivate me,” Mamaclay said. 

Like him, Judy Ann Neblasca, who has a general learning disability, thrives on the support she receives from her family and friends.

“I’m very proud of my daughter. Even if she has a disability, she is able to make her talent shine,” shared Neblasca’s mother, Maribel. “It pains me to hear people tease my daughter because she stutters. They say she’s a special child. I tell her to ignore them.”

Milette Rayos del Sol, her teacher and first coach, saw her potential during a school camp. Pretty soon, she underwent training before joining Division and NCR meets. Then, Neblasca was finally able to compete in the Palarong Pambansa.

“Playing sports and joining competitions have had a huge impact on improving her skills,” said Rayos del Sol.

Despite not winning in the Palarong Pambansa, her perseverance inspires the people around her, including other young athletes.

“Fight. Don’t give up,” said Neblasca. A girl of few words, yet blessed with an indomitable spirit.


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