TWO Filipino athletes went to the fight sites to wage battles against the finest in their respective sports on Sunday (Monday, Manila time). Sadly, they both returned to their camp on a stretcher, beaten to a pulp.
Marathoner Mary Joy Tabal found the opposition too overpowering and the noontime weather too hot , finishing 124th in a big field of 157 runners while golfer Miguel Tabuena finished way off the winner as they flopped in their Olympic debut in a forgettable day for Team Philippines in the 31st Rio Olympics.
The losses of Tabal and Tabuena left high jumper Marestella Torres, hurdler Eric Cray and taekwondo bet Kirstie Elaine Alora to carry the fight for Team PH, which is mired deep in the medal standings with only one silver medal to show after almost two weeks in the world’s biggest sporting spectacle.
Luckily for its officials, the Philippine team will not go home empty-handed thanks to weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz who placed second in the 53-kilogram division, but remains a big disappointment if compared to the achievements of its neighbors in the Southeast Asian region.
Thailand has won two gold, one silver and one bronze medals so far as it continued to remain the region’s perennial best Olympic performer, while Vietnam (shooter Hoang Xuan Vinh) and Singapore (swimmer Joseph Schooling) have ended their long search for a gold medal win. Even Indonesia is performing better than us with two silvers.
Realizing she could not beat the big guns in marathon unless they’re all running a fever, Tabal settled for the next best thing -- surpass her personal best of 2 hours, 43 minutes and 31 seconds.
Too bad, Tabal terribly missed her target, too. She clocked 3:02.27, her first Olympic bid disintegrating under the punishing Rio sun.
But despite the elements, Mary Joy pushed on, asking the good, sweet Lord for help as she struggled to hit the finish line in one piece.
“Sabi ko sa sarili ko, hindi ako papayag na DNF (did not finish) ang Pilipinas. Kaya slowly but surely, tinapos ko. Hindi ko na inisip yung time,” Tabal told a handful of Filipino journalists shortly after crossing the finish line to the joyful applause of officials, fans and Rio-based Filipinos.
“Ginawa ko na lang lahat ng makakaya ko para makatapos. Sa last 10 kilometers para na talagang bibigay ang katawan ko,” she said.
“Pero nasa Olympics pa naman ako kaya pinilit ko talaga. Inisip ko na lang ang mga kababayan natin na nanonood sa akin. Hindi ako puwedeng tumigil,” added Tabal.
A brave girl, indeed.
Kenya’s Jemima Jelagat Sumgong, the winner with a time of 2:24.30, and the rest of the top finishers were already done with the press interviews when Tabal came in, terribly exhausted and on the verge of collapse.
Afraid that something bad might happen to her, medics offered to wheel her out, but Mary Joy said she could manage.
In her talk with sportswriters, Tabal said she saw runners quit during the race, most of them in the final 10 kilometers of the 42-km that started and ended at Sambrodome, the venue of the world-famous Rio Carnival.
“Yung iba talaga tumutumba na sa daan. Masyado mainit kanina. Minsan gusto ko na din tumigil pero pinilit ko tapusin ang karera,” Tabal said.
A total of 24 runners did not finish the race.
On the eve of the race, Tabal said her target was a time faster than her personal best of 2:43.31. She missed it by the proverbial mile.
At the golf course, Tabuena broke par for the first time, but this was not enough for him to get the result he had hoped for as he made his first Olympic appearance.
The 21-year-old fired five birdies against four bogeys for a one-under-par 70 and a four-day total of 291 after previous rounds of 73, 75 and 73, finishing a whooping 23 shots behind Great Britain’s Justin Rose ( 67-69-65-67 for 268).
Tabuena said his Rio stint is “part of the learning curb” and vowed to do better if given another chance in the future, possibly in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“It’s a dream come true to represent the country here. I will be more ready next time,” he said.
Tabuena birdied Nos. 3, 5, 8, 16 and 18, all “inside five to 10 feet,” but bogeyed Nos. 2, 4, 6 and 10, mostly on “missed greens”.
Tabuena said t here’s more to learn in golf.
“I’m still in the process of learning whether I’m trying too hard or I’m not trying too hard,” said Tabuena, who is set to compete in the European Tour later this month. (With report from PH media bureau)