Torres eyes top 12, PH recordBy Ted S. Melendres
Philippine Daily Inquirer
LONDON—Brimming with renewed confidence, Marestella Torres finally gets her chance at Olympic redemption when she competes with the world’s best again in the women’s long jump at the London Games here.
Torres, 31, plunges into action at 7 p.m. Monday (2 a.m. Tuesday in Manila) at the Olympic Stadium in Stratford seeking a new Philippine record and outright entry into the semifinals.
A leap that would better her own 6.71-meter PH mark (not 6.68m as previously reported by national athletics chief Go Teng Kok) is all she needs to become the first Filipino ever to barge into the next round of her event.
The two-time Olympian from San Jose, Negros Oriental, will set out as the 15th-ranked entry in a field of 32 that includes Maureen Higa Maggi, whose leap of 7.04m nailed the gold for Brazil in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Incidentally, Maggi boasts a personal best of 7.28m.
Torres is one of the three Filipino remnants of an embattled 11-athlete contingent in these Games. Daniel Caluag races in the seeding run of the BMX competition on Wednesday and 5,000-meter runner Rene Herrera closes out the pitiful PH campaign on the eve of the Games’ closing ceremonies on Saturday.
Already out of the Games are swimmers Jasmine Alkhaldi and Jesse Khing Lacuna, skeet shooter Brian Rosario, archers Rachelle Anne Cabral and Mark Javier, lifter Hidilyn Diaz, judoka Tomohiko Hoshina and boxer Mark Anthony Barriga.
Barriga was the only Filipino thus far to reach the second round here but lost in a virtual wrestling match to a taller Birzhan Zhakypov of Kazakhstan, who advanced through a 2-point penalty assessed on Barriga by what a fuming Filipino official here described as a “blind and incompetent referee” from Canada.
“I’ve trained for this Olympics for so long, I know I will do good this time,” said Torres in Filipino. “The field is too strong but I will be there to do my best on Tuesday.”
The former Asian long jump queen is out to slay the ghost of her forgettable performance in Beijing 2008 where she managed only 6.17m through two disallowed leaps and landed 34th in a cast of 38.
“There were many personal distractions then and it was the first time I was competing with the best in my event,” Torres added.
Coach Joseph Sy said his ward has a clear chance since the International Amateur Athletic Federation had set 6.70m as the grade for semifinal qualification. Only the best 12 will make it to the round, although the number could increase if more than 12 beat the mark.
“There is a big possibility that she’ll make it to the top 12,” said Sy, 43, who has patiently worked Torres through a months-long regimen that had required her to lose weight and strengthen her abdominal muscles, two key factors for longer airborne time.
“She is very matured now in terms of keeping her weight—she’s now down to 53 kilograms—and discipline. Because she watches what she eats, she’s quicker now.”
Sy said the nightmare of Beijing has kept Torres very focused this time, adding the feeling of competing in the Olympics the first time around overwhelmed her.
Five of the 14 entries here who own a personal best of 6.72m or longer have gone past the 7.0m psychological mark, including Americans Janay Deloach, Britney Reese and Chelsea Hayes.
“I don’t look at their records,” said Torres, who has three attempts to improve on her PH record. “When we are all there in the field, anything can happen. You can never tell.”
Before plunging into the final phase of her training in Guilford here, Torres ruled the Asian All-Stars competition in Almaty, Kazaksthan, with a leap of 6.62m. She pipped Kazakh Anastasha Kudinova (6.36), her top continental rival, in her sixth and final attempt.
Torres also ruled a stop of the three-leg Asian Grand Prix in India with a 6.61m leap.