KUALA LUMPUR — Even though she was unable to represent the country for the regional biennial tournament, Mary Joy Tabal shrugged that off and bagged the first gold medal for the Philippines by winning the women’s marathon at the ongoing 2017 Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The 28-year-old Tabal was in a class of her own in the women’s marathon by showcasing a dominant finishing in an impressive time way ahead of the competition.
Tabal finished the 42.195-km. race in 2 hours 48 minutes 11 seconds way ahead of the second placer Hoang Thi Thanh of Vietnam who checked in at more than 7 minutes behind the Filipina, and Natthaya Thanaronnawat of Thailand in third place.
The Cebuana marathoner also delivered a silver medal finish in the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore.
With Tabal ruling the women’s marathon, the Philippines now has a 1-1-2 (gold-silver-bronze) medal count, with the silver medal coming from sepak takraw and the bronze medals from archery.
On Saturday, taekwondo athlete Elaine Kirstie Alora will be at the forefront of the opening parade, proudly carrying the Philippine flag, as the 29th SEA Games formally opens at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium in this sprawling Malaysian capital.
Joining Alora in leading the Philippine delegation are chief of mission Cynthia Carrion, Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Jose “Peping” Cojuangco, Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) executive director Carlo Abarquez, and athletes, coaches and officials from 38 sports disciplines.
On the eve of the opening ceremony, Carrion said the athletes are “really in an up mood”.
“I’ve been to a lot of SEA Games and this is the first time I saw the athletes in an up mood. Don’t you feel it? They really want to win something. They are really fighting hard to put the Philippines up there,” she said.