The Philippines were expecting to get a gold in other sports, but got it instead from Mary Joy Tabal.
While most people were asleep in August last year, the day already began for Mary Joy Tabal as she competed for the country in the women’s marathon of the Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur. The Cebuana native was our lone bet for the category and was aiming to go for the gold.
At that time, the Philippines had yet to win a gold medal, as boxing and other sports had yet to deliver. Most of our ASEAN neighbors have already gone far in the medal tally; host Malaysia had a couple of gold medals already, and so did Thailand. The Philippines rested almost in the middle part of the medal tally board, boasting only bronze and silver medals.
Not known to many is the fact that Tabal almost did not make it to the SEA Games contingent because of a misunderstanding with the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA); she had to fight for her spot in the contingent in order to avenge her silver medal finish at the 2015 SEA Games. The Rio Olympian eventually won her spot in the roster of athletes that were sent off to Kuala Lumpur and it proved to be a wise decision on PATAFA’s side.
Everyone then woke up to the news that the Philippines had just earned their first gold at the women’s marathon. The moment she crossed the finish line must’ve been sweet vindication after she fought for her place in the roster of athletes and after her training abroad. All the more worth the sweat and tears because she was able to beat the same person who beat her in the same category in the 2015 SEA Games, the lady from Thailand; Natthaya Thanaronnawat who finished at 3rd place.
Her victory in the SEA games inspired fellow athletes in Kuala Lumpur to do better in their respective events. After Mary Joy Tabal’s feat at the women’s marathon, men and women’s Triathlon followed up with victories as Nikko Huelgas and Kim Mangrobang bagged golds. Huelgas was able to replicate his 2015 SEA Games victory, while Mangrobang was able to avenge her loss from fellow Filipina Claire Adorna, who settled for silver in the same category.
Mary Joy Tabal’s journey to the gold medal in the 2017 SEA Games was definitely not a smooth road to take, but she showed that hard work pays off sweetly the moment she got up on that podium with our national anthem playing on the background and our flag being raised up high.