Marathoner Mary Joy Tabal in ‘perfect shape’ as she guns for first PH gold in SEA Games
Mary Joy Tabal trained in Italy under John Philip Duenas, Japanese coach Akio Ozami, and Guiseppe Giambrone. Jerome Ascano

KUALA LUMPUR — Mary Joy Tabal attempts to deliver for the Philippines its first gold medal in the 2017 Southeast Asian Games as the marathon ushers in the athletics competitions on Saturday morning in Putrajaya.

Silver medalist two years ago, over a minute behind Natthaya Thanaronnawat, who is back to see action for Thailand, Tabal will run the marathon hours before the formal opening ceremony at the Bukit Jalil Stadium.

Tabal will be eyeing gold in women's marathon with the starting gun at 6:15 a.m., 15 minutes before the men's marathon where Jeson Agravante is entered for the Philippines.

Focus will be on Tabal, who was reinstated to the national team after being dropped again by the Philippine Athletic Track and Field Association (Patafa) months after the 2016 Olympics.

Tabal said she is not as pressured to perform following the controversy that surrounded her preparation.

"Nung nagkaroon ng mga issues, doon ako naka-feel ng pressure. But after we solved everything and we decided to move forward, both of us, after ng training ko, doon ko na-base na there is a great possibility na kakayanin ko na makakuha ng gold," Tabal said.

"Kaya 'yung pressure na na-feel ko dati, ngayon, may pressure pa rin pero more on linagay ko as a challenge," Tabal said.

Tabal trained in Italy under John Philip Duenas, Japanese coach Akio Ozami, and Guiseppe Giambrone.

"Nagbago 'yung body shape ko. I am in perfect shape for a marathoner. Nagbago rin 'yung porma at technique ko kasi doon sa training namin, sinasabi lagi ng coach ko, 'Joy, you are very strong. You have the potential. But the problem is you lack experience on how to deliver your pacing,'" said Tabal.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @reubensports