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After SEA Games victory, Tabal looks to 2016 Olympics

by SMART Public Affairs | Jul 06, 2015
[6 July 2015] Believing she would have to fight it out for third place, long distance runner Mary Joy Tabal said getting a silver medal in the recent women’s marathon of the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Singapore was a “happy” development.

Believing she would have to fight it out for third place, long distance runner Mary Joy Tabal said getting a silver medal in the recent women’s marathon of the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Singapore was a “happy” development.

“I’m happy I earned a silver medal on my first try. We assumed that my personal best of 2 hours and 48 minutes would land me in third place in the SEA Games. The bronze medalist in the last SEA Games (2013) had a time of 2:49,” she said in Cebuano.

Tabal was picked to represent the Philippines for the women’s 42-kilometer distance because her personal record in marathon gave her a big chance of placing third, said her coach John Philip Dueñas.

The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) and Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) named Tabal as the country’s representative to the SEA Games last May.

The 25-year-old Cebuana from the mountainous community of Guba in Cebu City said she felt during the race that the gold medal was achievable but didn’t want to risk everything by pulling ahead of the lead pack of runners.

“It was my first time at the Games. I was still getting a feel of the race and the competition," she added, citing she and Dueñas expected hot sunny weather and were thrown off by the heavy rains and winds. She finished second to Thailand's Thanaronnawat Natthaya with a time of 3:04.39, way below her personal best of 2:48.

Supported by Smart

As a Philippine athlete, Tabal said all her travel expenses to Singapore were shouldered by the government. Her coach wasn't part of the official delegation and had to pay his own way.

Tabal said Dueñas was able to take the trip with her because of the financial assistance extended by mobile leader Smart Communications, Inc. Smart is a staunch supporter of sports development in the country, having backed national athletes like Gilas Pilipinas and the Azkals, as well as the activities of various sports organizations.

"It is very important for athletes like runners to be accompanied by their coach. We have to be there to ensure they get proper rest and nutrition. They might eat something that don't agree with them as they are in a different country with food they're not used to. This is what might have happened to the top Philippine contender for the men's marathon," Dueñas said in Cebuano.

He cited top Filipino marathoner Eduardo Buenavista, who joined the SEA Games with the fastest time of 2:24:11 in the 42-kilometer distance this year but placed fifth as he suffered from stomach problems.

In the women's marathon, Tabal she followed her coach's race plan to stick with the lead pack of runners up to 30 kilometers and then start to run ahead.

"We were running together in the rain at a much slower pace than we were used to and no one wanted to break away. I was trying to size up my opponents and I guess they were trying to do the same. No one wanted wanted to run ahead. At the last few kilometers, I was still following Natthaya," she narrated in Cebuano. Tabal said she wanted to overtake her closest rival in the last two kilometers but had suffered from leg cramps at that point and was afraid she might lose all chances of getting a medal if she forced it.

2016 Olympic quest

Flushed from her second place finish, Tabal has set her sights on the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. She thanked Smart for its help in the SEA Games and hoped the company would continue to support her and Dueñas in their Olympic quest.

According to Dueñas, Tabal needs to set a new personal best of 2:42 in the 42-kilometer distance in an accredited race like the Milo Marathon to qualify for the Olympics.

The Boston Marathon is another qualifying race for the Olympics, and Dueñas said Tabal might have a better chance of achieving the required time racing in a cool climate. “Last December, we attended a marathon training in Japan and we learned that it is better to race in a cooler temperature. Runners however have to be in that place 5-10 days before the scheduled race to acclimatize themselves,” he pointed out.

With only a month off to allow her body to recover from the grueling training for the SEA Games, Tabal will start preparing for the national finals of the Milo Marathon scheduled on December 6, 2015 in Angeles City, Pampanga. Although the short term objective is Milo and after, Boston, Dueñas said the end sight is always the 2016 Olympics.