PATAFA may face tough decision after Tabal beats Olympic mark
MANILA, Philippines - Mary Joy Tabal says she will present her certificate of performance to Philippine sports officials in the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon where she ran 2:43.31 to surpass the Olympic qualifying time of 2:45.
The 26-year-old from Cebu will have to seek reinstatement in the national team to the Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association (PATAFA) after she left in 2015 following a dispute over securing sponsors.
Marestella Torres, Southeast Asia’s former long jump queen, was granted entry to her third Olympiad in May after PATAFA sought her inclusion to Rio through the IAAF, the world ruling body of athletics, using the universality clause. This means that if an IAAF member country has a qualified male athlete but no woman athlete, it could seek to qualify an athlete through that statute.
PATAFA president Philip Juico earlier told Rappler.com that IAAF granted their request for Torres this month. Juico has not replied to an interview request by text message.
With a female athlete having qualified already, the question becomes whether IAAF’s nod to Torres still holds. A source in the Philippine athletics community said “there is no decision. A meeting must be held soon to clarify things.” In fact, two high-ranking officials were asked about their opinion but they said this has to be examined further. One went as far to say this is “unprecedented.”
The source said there appears to be no problem with allowing Tabal into the Olympic team as long as she mends her differences with PATAFA. “PATAFA has to reinstate her and then her name will be sent to the Philippine Olympic Committee for approval,” the source said.
The problem is, one official said, what happens if the POC will be made to choose between Torres and Tabal?
Athletes are given until July 11 to meet the track and field qualifying marks for the Rio Olympics.
In a season where local athletes were struggling to attain the Olympic qualifying mark, Tabal’s performance came like rain in El Nino heat. Eric Cray, a Fil-Am sprints and hurdles ace who qualified on time, lives and trains in the US.
Pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena had cracked the national mark at least 10 times but he is still 15 centimeters short of the Olympic qualifying mark of 5.70 meters. It is mostly due to a part of the body hitting the crossbar just when he had nearly cleared it. And Torres struggled for months, with a leap of 6.60 meters which is 10 centimeters short of qualifying for Rio.
In a statement by her sponsor MotorAce, which quoted Tabal after the Canadian race, Tabal said “I felt like I was the happiest person running that time. I just kept crying until I crossed the finish line and told everyone that I made it.”
Hounded by her failure to hit the Olympic qualifying mark at the Boston Marathon despite training for nearly two months in Japan, Tabal made sure she had something left in the last ten kilometers of the Scotiabank race.
“The first half of the course was easy because it's all flat and some downhill. The second half was a little harder because of the ups and downs and turns,” she said. “If for some reason I will slow down in the later part, I will have an allowance.”
The phase which long distance runners describe as “hitting the wall,” came around the 35 kilometers point. “As I looked at my time, I saw that I still had that allowance and as long as I kept that pace, I would make the cutoff, “ Tabal said.
“Those last kilometers, I was just pushing myself, praying and crying,” she added.
Mary Joy Tabal becomes the first Filipina marathoner to achieve the Olympic cut-off time. Only a few days of deliberations will determine if Tabal will join 5 other marathoners who have made Olympic teams. – Rappler.com