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Tabal expresses guarded optimism in marathon title defense

Mary Joy Tabal crosses the finish line in the 2017 Southeast Asian Games. INQUIRER/ MARIANNE BERMUDEZ

She’s not in the mood to promise another gold, but there’s no hint of tension as Cebuana-pride Mary Joy Tabal defends her marathon title in the 30th Southeast Asian Games Friday at world-class New Clark City Athletics Stadium.

The pint-sized Tabal was the runaway winner of the gold medal two years ago in Malaysia, and barring any monumental problem, is expected to dominate the opposition anew.

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But Tabal isn’t biting praises from a swarm of sportswriters who cornered her at the Athletes Village in Capas, Tarlac.

‘‘ Nothing less than the gold, of course. But you have to remember that there’s still the race and anything can happen. You cannot predict what will happen. All that I can say is that we’ve prepared the strategies,’’ said Tabal, who made history by competing in the Rio Olympics.

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A veteran of the Boston Marathon and a five-time winner of the hugely-popular Milo Marathon Finals, Tabal noted that this year’s course is vastly different from the flat course used in Malaysia.

‘‘Here, the course is quite challenging. The course is rolling up and down. There are two loops of 19 kilometers,’’ said Tabal. She clocked 2:48:26 in winning the gold two years ago, which came two years after a silver medal in the Singapore SEA Games.

That winning time was far from her personal best of two hours, 43 minutes and 31 seconds set three years ago during the Ottawa Marathon in Canada.

She also noted that the late start of the event may affect her clocking. ‘’That’s why it’s very hard to say if my time will be faster compared with my winning time in Malaysia,’’ said Tabal.

The event will start at 6:15 a.m. and Tabal expects the race to finish at around 9 a.m.

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TAGS: title, title defense
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