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Cray hopes to qualify in 400-m final

RIO DE JANEIRO – Fil-American Eric Cray will bring out his best on Monday when he competes in the preliminary round of the men’s 400m hurdles at the historic Maracana Stadium.

The two-time SEA Games gold medalist and record holder in the 400m hurdles said Saturday he’s all set to show his wares and represent the Philippines in athletics’ biggest stage.

“I’m feeling good and I’m ready to race,” said the 27-year-old, who was born in Olongapo City to a Filipina mother and an American father but raised in Texas.

Cray, who holds a best time of 48.98 seconds in the 400m hurdles, arrived here on the eve of the opening ceremony last Aug. 5, and has spent days trying to stay in top shape.

On Monday, he will try to get past the preliminary round, and get to the semis the following day. Should he make it, the final will take place Thursday.

Cray’s best time of 48.98 seconds, whether he matches it or surpasses it, should carry him to the finals. He set his best time in Madrid last June.

In the 2012 London Olympics, Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic won the gold in 47.63, followed by Michael Tinsley of the United States (47.91) and Javier Culson of Puerto Rico (48.10).

The fourth to sixth places in London four years all clocked just under 49 seconds, meaning Cray has a shot at it as long as he stays very close to his personal best.

“That’s the goal – make it through the rounds and make it to the finals. The goal is to get out of the preliminaries and make it to the semis,” said Cray, also the gold medalist in the 100m of the SEA Games.

“I’ve been working at a new personal best hopefully here and run faster than my personal best,” he said as he headed to the main dining hall of the Athletes Village Saturday evening.

Cray has trained hard under a Jamaican coach, Davian Clarke, a bronze medalist in the 4x400m relay in the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, the year Filipino boxer Mansueto Velasco won the silver medal.

“Today was my last day of training,” said Cray, adding that last Thursday he took a break and joined some members of the small Philippine delegation in a visit to the Christ the Redeemer statue.

“We went around to see Jesus and Sugar Hills. I really enjoyed it and had a lot of fun that day. The next day I got straight back to business,” he said.