Faced with far tougher foes, SEAG gold medalist Tabal won’t be ‘wanting in fight’
JAKARTA—She used to be Philippine athletics’ prodigal daughter, and Mary Joy Tabal will be the first bet to gun for the country’s first athletics gold in the 18th Asian Games.
“Joy is a special problem and a special opportunity (for the Philippines),” Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association president Popoy Juico told Filipino scribes Friday on the eve of athletics action here, where late addition Kristina Knott and two others also open their bids at Gelora Bung Karno Stadium.
The country hasn’t won a championship in this event for more than three decades.
“She is number one 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.
“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.
“The reports say she is ready and in condition,” Juico said as Tabal remains 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.
The century dash is 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 Janry 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.
Long jumper Marestella Torres came closest to snapping the spell in 2010, when she finished a fourth in Guangzhou, China.
Juico speaks highly of Knott, one of five additions to the contingent, 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.