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In 21 years, the Milo Little Olympics has managed to produce top caliber athletes; among them is Cebuana Olympian Mary Joy Tabal.
The 27-year-old Tabal, the first Filipina to compete in the Olympic marathon event, started her dreams in this annual multi-sporting meet when she was 12 years old.
She vied in the girls’ elementary sprint events on the tracks and managed to win her first medal—a bronze— in the 200-meter run in 2002 when she was a sixth grader. That became her stepping stone to eventually becoming an Olympian.
“I used to watch popular sports personalities in Milo TV advertisements when I was a little girl and I told myself that I want to become like them,” Tabal said during the official launching of the Visayas Regional finals at the Cube of the SM Seaside City Cebu. “And [now] here I am being idolized by kids because of my achievements.”
Aside from being a multi-titled runner, Tabal is also a grand slam champiom of the National Milo Marathon. She has won several titles in the country and abroad. She made it to the Rio Olympics by making the qualifying time in a race in Canada. Although she fell short in the quadrennial meet, her 124th-place finish in women’s marathon was admired by many.
“It started as a little girl’s dream to join the Milo event and it led me to reach my Olympic dream,” Tabal said.
Her best advise to the around 4,000 student athletes from 250 schools from the Visayas who will compete tomorrow is to persevere to make their dreams come true.
“After all the failures I experienced, I finally made it. The best advise to the kids is to persevere and put their heart in the sport they are competing in,” said Tabal.
She shared that she was forced to quit running when she entered high school to focus on her studies but returned to the competitive scene when she was in college at Southwestern University. From there, everything went up for Tabal, winning titles locally, then nationally, until finally making it to the international scene.
Robbie De Vera, Milo Sports Executive, said the Visayas Regional finals is the most competitive leg among other regional finals. So they’re confident they could find another athlete like Tabal.
“Visayas is the elite of the elite because it draws talents. Milo Little Olympics is the stepping stone to become an Olympian or a national level athlete,” De Vera said.
Tabal will light the urn for today’s opening ceremonies at the Cebu City Sports Center.
The meet will feature 15 events, seven to be held at the SM Seaside City Cebu.
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