Joy is a special problem, special opportunity for PH, says Patafa
JAKARTA — She used to be Philippine athletics’ prodigal daughter, and who better than marathoner Mary Joy Tabal to be the first bet to gun for the country’s first gold in the 18th Asian Games and quench the Filipinos’ thirst for a championship in the sport lasting more than three decades?
“Joy is a special problem and a special opportunity (for the Philippines),” Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association president Popoy Juico told Filipino scribes over lunch on Friday on the eve of athletics action here where late addition Kristina Knott and two others take to the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium’s track and field.
“She is No. 1 in the Southeast Asian Games, but the disparity with the Asian Games is big,” Juico said of Tabal, whom the association took back after a year’s absence in 2016 after they had differences on her sponsors and coaches.
Tabal’s best time is two hours, 43 minutes and 31 seconds. Eunice Kirwa of Bahrain, who will be among her foes when she sees action on Sunday, won the gold in the 2014 Incheon Asian Games with a time of 2:25:37.
“But I don’t think she’ll be wanting in spirit to fight.”
Like all of the Patafa’s athletes which the association keeps tabs of, Tabal trained in Italy to get ready for these Games, and that’s all that the Patafa leadership knows, basically.
“The reports (reaching us at Patafa) say she is ready and in condition,” Juico said as Tabal remains to be a prospect to snap a medal-less drought that dates back to 1994 and win the first gold medal since Lydia de Vega ruled the 100 meters in Seoul in 1986.
And that’s where Knott will be seeing action in on Saturday, taking part in the 100-meter heats with Aries Toledo campaigning in the men’s decathlon and John Ubas in the long jump competition.
Athletics is the third biggest medal producer for the country in its participation in the Games, winning a total of 50 (11-gold, 10-silver and 29-bronze) since 1951 before the drought started in the 1990 edition in Beijing.
Long jumper Marestela Torres came closest to snapping the spell in 2010, when she finished a fighting fourth in Guangzhou, China.
Juico speaks highly of Knott, one of five additions to the contingent whom the Patafa fought hard for, and Eric Cray, who the association held down to two events for a better chance at landing a medal.
EJ Obiena is also a gold prospect in the pole vault, with his personal best of 5.60 meters just a shade shy of the Asian record of 5.65. He didn’t see action in the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur last year because of an ACL injury. /with a report from Glendale Rosal
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