Eric Cray: I will give it my best shot
RIO DE JANEIRO—Eric Shauwn Cray takes on his greatest international contemporaries on Monday morning (Monday night in Manila) when he vies in the heats of the 400-meter hurdles at the celebrated Maracaña Stadium here.
Olympic athletics officials have not released the start list and the heat designations for Cray’s event but the 5-foot-9 Filipino-American from El Paso, Texas, does not mind.
“I feel good, ready to race,” said Cray as he wound up his training on Saturday with coach Davian Clarke, the Jamaican three-time Olympian, at the Olympic warmup oval about 40 minutes by bus from Maracaña.
“I’ve prepared long enough for my event and it will not do me any good to overdo it.”
The Olongapo-born son of a former US Navy sailor and his Filipino wife, the former Maria Brosas, said it doesn’t matter if he races with the big names in his heat as long as “I stick to my pace and give it my best shot in the last 100 meters.”
Two-time gold medalist Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic returns to defend his title against a high-powered field led by American Johnny Dutch, the world’s fastest this year at 48.10 seconds.
Sanchez clocked 47.63 in the London Olympics, besting American Michael Tinsley (47.91) and Javier Culson of Puerto Rico (48.10).
American Kevin Young holds the world and Olympic record of 46.78 seconds which he set in Barcelona 1992.
Cray has progressively lowered the Philippine record ever since his sponsors, all enlisted by American athletics patron Jim Lafferty, teamed up with the national athletics federation led by Philip Ella Juico last year.
He finally breached the psychological 49-second barrier in his event only last month when he timed 48.98 in the tough IAAF World Challenge in Madrid.
The clocking, well under the 49.40 Olympic qualifying standard, surpassed the 49.12 he set in a track meet in the Cayman Islands last year.
Cray pledged not to put to waste his Olympic debut, saying he is focused on making it to the next round of his event.
“I’ve been working at a new personal best, and hopefully I set it here,” said the full-time hurdler who used to work as a department store sales agent in El Paso. “The goal still is to make it through the rounds, to get out of the preliminaries and make it to the semifinals.
“I’m enjoying this experience of a lifetime. I will give it my best shot, to run to the best of my abilities.”