THEY may be a long shot for an Olympic gold, but tracksters Marestella Torres-Sunang, Eric Cray, and Mary Joy Tabal would be more than glad just to be in contention for a medal in the Rio De Janeiro Games.
The three were feted in a send-off ceremony by the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa) and the ‘Adopt-an-Olympian Program’ of the private sector headed by sports patron Jim Lafferty Tuesday at the Orchids Garden Hotel.
Although not fancied to really give the world athletic powers a run for their money during the August 5-21 meet, the Filipino tracksters are nonetheless focused on giving Philippine track and field its first ever medal since Miguel White salvaged a bronze in the men’s 400-meter hurdle of the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
“We got a shot at this,” said Lafferty of the possibility of making the finals of the 400m hurdles and the women’s long jump, where Cray and Torres-Sunang will be competing in Rio.
“We have always believed that Marestella and Eric have a strong chance to make the finals. This puts them in the medal hunt.”
Tabal is entered in the women’s marathon.
At 35, Torres-Sunang would be the oldest women’s long jump participant. But that doesn’t mean she’ll just go through the motions in what might be her last ever Olympic stint after the 2008 and 2012 Games in Beijing and London.
Lafferty said the Filipino long jumper has been into yoga since giving birth two years ago, and is in the best condition of her career since qualifying for Rio with a new national record and Southeast Asian mark of 6.72 meters during the Kazakhstan Open.
At the moment, Marestella has 10.1 percent fat in her body, which Lafferty expects to go as low as nine percent come the Olympics.
“That would help her at least go for 6.80 meters, which is the closest we can get our athlete in the medal hunt,” added Lafferty of Torres-Sunang, who is the first Filipino athlete trained by him and part of the ‘Adopt-an-Olympian Program,' which he established in 2014.
Torres-Sunang, the first trackster to make the Olympics three times since discuss thrower Josephine dela Vina did in 1964 (Tokyo), 1968 (Mexico), and 1972 (Berlin), was at the send-off ceremony along with Lafferty and Patafa president Philip Ella Juico.
“Kundisyon ako ngayon. Ang goal ko is to really make the finals,” said the veteran long jumper, who even did some yoga moves during the program.
Both Cray and Tabal were interviewed live over Skype as the two are currently in El Paso, Texas and Japan, respectively. Cray qualified after clocking 48.98 seconds in the IAAF World Challenge Madrid, while Tabal did 2:43.29 in the Ottawa Marathon in Canada last June.
Torres-Sunang will be leaving for Rio with majority of the Philippine delegation this Saturday. Tabal, meanwhile, will leave Japan on August 2 and Cray two days later.