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Gold or bust for Olympian Tabal

KUALA LUMPUR – Rio Olympian Mary Joy Tabal yesterday said she would be greatly disappointed if she doesn’t win the gold medal in women’s marathon on Saturday in the 29thSoutheast Asian Games here.

“Sayang naman ang mga sakripisyo ko at hirap na dinanas sa training,” said Tabal on the eve of the competition.

Tabal, a 28-year-old product of Southwestern University, admitted that there’s pressure to deliver, considering the brouhaha that accompanied her last-minute inclusion to the national team.

“Siyempre, nandyan ang pressure,” said Tabal who had to write an appeal to be included in the team. “Pero pagkatapos ng training ko, malaki ang paniwala ko na malalagpasan ko ang mga hamon.”

Tabal trained for three months in Italy under Italian coach Guiseppe Giambrone and local mentor John Philip Duenas.

Tabal said Giambrone told her that she has the strength, but needs to work on the proper pacing.

“Kailangan daw na may lakas daw ako sa dulo,” she said.

Tabal said she was surprised to learn that the marathon course in Putrajaya consists of six loops in relatively flat pavement.

“May kaunting pa-ahon sa bridge, pero basically, patag lang,” said Tabal.

She said she had extensive hill training in Italy, but whether she gets to break her personal best or not is not her priority.

“Ang priority is to win the gold. But if the opportunity presents itself, try ko break ‘yung record,” said Tabal who holds a personal best of 2:43:31.

The game-plan, according to Tabal, is plain and simple.

“Pakiramdaman ko lang ang kalaban sa first loop (about six kilometers), tapos try ko kumawala na,” she said.

Training with foreign elite runners made her tough. In fact, she claimed to have lost around eight pounds.

“Pati kulay ko, mukha na akong Ethiopian,” she chuckled.