OTTAWA – Patience and sacrifice finally paid off for reigning MILO Marathon Queen Mary Joy Tabal as she achieved her ultimate goal, qualifying for the coming Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics. The pride of Cebu City clocked a blazing 2:43:30.4 at the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon last Sunday (May 29) to punch her ticket to the world’s biggest athletic competition.
Tabal finished in Eighth Place overall and highest-ranked Asian runner among all female entries. Her clocking was well within the 2:45:00 standard that was recently revised from the previous 2:42:00.
Aside from going to the Rio Olympics, Tabal also smashed both the national and her personal records for the 42.195-kilometer distance. The old record of 2:44:41 was held by another former MILO Marathon Queen Jho-Ann Banayag set at the 2007 Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand Southeast Asian Games while Tabal’s personal best was at 2:48:00 during the 38th MILO Marathon National Finals.
Ethiopia swept all three podium positions led by champion Koren Jelela with a time of 2:27:05.4. Coming in Second Place was Aberu Mekuria (2:29:50.4) followed by Sechale Dalasa (2:32:45.5).
Before anything else, Tabal has to apply for reinstatement in the national team with the Philippine Amateur Track and Field Associatin (PATAFA). That is the only requirement needed before she can join 400-meter hurdles specialist Shawn Eric Cray on the official delegation.
Last month, Tabal failed to hit the mark when she competed in the 120th Boston Marathon as part of her prize for winning the 39th MILO Marathon Nationals last December in Angeles City. Instead of quitting, she went on an intensive training program in Japan before trying her luck in the Canadian capital.
Once clearance with PATAFA is secured, Tabal can now fully focus on preparing for the games set for August 5 to 21. She will be the very first Filipina to compete in the Olympic Marathon after legends Benjamin Silva-Netto (1968), Victor Idava (1976), Leonardo Illut (1984), Herman Suizo (1992), Roy Vence (1996) and Eduardo “Vertek” Buenavista (2004).
The quest for the next batch of Filipino Olympic hopefuls continues with the 40th MILO Marathon qualifying races this year starting on July 17 in Dagupan City. Twelve more will regional races will follow culminating with the National Finals on December 4 in Iloilo City where Tabal and Rafael Poliquit are expected to defend their titles.