Cray, Sunang miss Rio finals
RIO DE JANEIRO—The Philippines took a double whammy in a frenetic night in athletics Tuesday (Wednesday morning in Manila) as Eric Cray and Marestella Torres-Sunang blew their respective bids at the Olympic Stadium and joined all but of one their 11 teammates out of the 31st Summer Games here.
The Filipino-American Cray exploded off the blocks like the sprinter he also is, tried to match pace with the event’s heavy favorite next to his lane, and came to grief.
He had no more to give in the final straight and settled for seventh place in the first of three semifinal heats of the 400m hurdles with a time of 49.37 seconds, way off the clocking of the slowest qualifier for the eight-man medal round.
Sunang hurt her left hip during the warm-ups and settled for a best effort of 6.22 meters that was nowhere near the leap of the last of the 12 finalists in the women’s long jump.
Although she duplicated her leap in the London Olympics four years earlier, Sunang wound up 28th out of the 38 jumpers. She made 6.17 in her first Games in Beijing 2008.
The 27-year-old Cray tagged behind American heat winner Kerron Clement right until the last 60 meters when the rest of the pack reeled him in. He said a tactical blunder cost him a personal-best time.
“Oh man, I panicked,” he said. “It was a crazy race, pretty fast. I think my first 250 meters was faster than yesterday. I tried go some more but since the race was faster than yesterday it kind of messed me up.”
Cray, who also runs in the century dash and is in fact Southeast Asia’s fastest man, also cashed in on a quick start to clock 49.05 in booking a semifinal berth Monday.
Clement, the heavy favorite to bag the gold in Wednesday night’s finals, submitted a season-best 48.26 in topping the semifinals. Jamaica’s Annsert Whyte came next in 48.32 followed by Ireland’s Thomas Barr, the same man who pipped Cray for second in the qualifying race Monday, in 48.39.
Cray said Kerron’s quick start in the outermost lane took him out of his usual rhythm.
“I think I was second until about the eighth hurdle,” he said. “But the pace was so fast my legs started to give out.”
Having lost steam, Cray hit the 10th hurdle pretty hard and nearly lost his balance, allowing Kanya’s Boniface Tumuti to seize second and go all the way to a runner-up finish behind Clement.
Cray was the third Filipino to compete in the 400m hurdles in the Games after Miguel White, who won a bronze medal in Adolf Hitler’s Berlin Olympics showcase in 1936, and Pablo Soblingo (1956 Melbourne), who also vied in the 400m.
Sunang had only herself to blame for missing the chance to finally qualify for a spot in the long jump finals.
She hurt her left hip after landing on the hard base layer of unpaved sand left by Great Britain’s Jasmin Sawyers during the warm-ups.
Although her first leap was longer than she expected, she said the pain worsened in her next two attempts where she managed 6.10 and 6.15, respectively.
“I felt the pain right after my first jump,” said Sunang, at 35 the most senior among the Filipino athletes here. “I already knew the pain would worsen.”
Noticing an abrupt, strange change in his ward’s takeoff spot, coach Joebert Delicano approached Sunang, who told him about her sore hips.
“Tough luck,” she said in Filipino. “I could have made it to the finals because, normally, if I jump 6.22 in my first attempt I can still improve it by at least a third of a meter more. I was psyched up to do better this time. Sayang talaga.”
Serbia’s European champion Ivana Spanovic topped the two-group semifinals with a leap of 6.87. Spanovic pipped Germany’s Malaika Mihambo by five centimeters, with gold-medal favorite Brittney Reese of the United States third with 6.78. Sawyers, the 12th and last qualifier, posted 6.53.
The exit of Cray and Sunang left only taekwondo-jin Kirstie Elaine Alora as the only Filipino standing in these Summer Games.
The 27-year-old Alora vies in her sport’s +67 kilogram competition on the eve of the Olympics’ closing ceremonies on Aug. 21.
Apart from weightlifting silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz, Cray and Sunang, already out are swimmers Jasmine Alkhaldi and Jessie Khing Lacuna, tablenetter Ian Lariba, boxers Rogen Ladon and Charly Suarez, golfer Miguel Tabuena, lifter Nestor Colonia, marathoner Mary Joy Tabal and judoka Kodo Nakano.
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