LONDON — In her own words and in the eyes of a coach, veteran Marestella Torres will do a lot better this time.
"Handang handa na po ako,” said Torres, giggling as she bumped into two Team Philippines officials on her way to the training venue just a short ride away from the Olympic Village.
Indeed, she looks good, in top shape and ready to make up for her forgettable showing four years ago in Beijing where she finished only 34th out of 41 long jumpers with a paltry effort of 6.17 meters.
That the Marestella today doesn’t look like the Marestella four years ago didn’t go unnoticed for a Filipino coach from another sport.
"Marestella’s more focused now. She’s a great athlete. I’m sure she’s okay than when she was in Beijing. Look at her,’’ said swimming mentor Pinky Brosas in a tribute to the girl who has been the face of local athletics for some time now.
In a short talk with a team official, Marestella said she’s now "90 percent ready,’’ with more than a week to go before her event on August 7, unlike in Beijing when she competed just for the fun of it.
"Basta makasama lang sa Beijing,’’ said Torres, bursting into a loud laugh.
It’s different this time.
Marestella, a four-time SEA Games champion in her event, gladly joined the three-week training camp provided free by London Games organizers, doing everything to make the most out of it.
‘’Nagtiyaga talaga ako sa camp. Alam kong marami akong makukuhang maganda dito,” she said.
One of them is the chance to adapt to the unpredictable London weather a good two weeks before the opening, something which she said has helped her a lot as she makes her second Olympic bid in a career that has its ups and downs.
It’s as difficult as having a souvenir shot with the Queen, given the formidable opposition headed by defending champion Maureen Higa Magi of Brazil, who did 7.04 in Beijing.
"Mabigat,’’ she blurted out.
Marestella’s best effort is 6.71 meters, which she achieved in a triumphant campaign in last year’s Southeast Asian Games in Palembang, Indonesia. That was also the Olympic Class B qualifying mark.
Building up for the London Games, Marestella joined two Asian tournaments, with modest success. She wound up third in the kickoff leg of the Asian Grand Prix, and fifth in the second before preventing a shutout with a win in the final stage.
A few days before the camp, Torres showed she’s hell-bent on doing good this time by winning the Asian All-Stars in Almaty, Kazakstan, with a jump of 6.62 which she attained in her sixth and final attempt.
"Sana good sign ‘yun na mas maganda ang itatalon ko ngayon,” said Marestella before saying goodbye and joining teammate Rene Herrera for an afternoon workout.
OLYMPIC NOTES: Top Filipino sports officials headed by Philippine Olympic Committee president Peping Cojuangco, Philippine Sports Commission chair Richie Garcia and POC chair Monico Puentevella arrived on Thursday night in time for the opening ceremonies...Also in town joining the opening parade is sportsman and shooting head Mikee Romero...The Philippine team is supported by ICTSI, Bank of Philippine Islands, Procter & Gamble, Petron, Smart Sport, TV5, PSC, Philracom, Samsonite and Mizuno... Administrative officer Arsenic Lacson is a busy body who’s making things easier for his boss, chief of mission Manny Lopez...