DESPITE a long hiatus forced by the coronavirus pandemic, marathon champion Mary Joy Tabal is keeping her sights on the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and other major international competitions.
And although her training was limited to mostly indoors due to the strict quarantine measures, Tabal is staying in good shape and keeping a positive outlook in life.
“Tuloy lang ang laban, tuloy lang ang buhay kahit pa may pandemic ngayon. We just have to stay home, stay safe and stay active for now,” said Tabal during the 7th “Usapang Sports on Air” by the Tabloids Organization in Philippine Sports (TOPS) via Zoom yesterday.
But Tabal, who holds the distinction as the first Filipino to compete in the marathon in the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, said she will continue to work hard to pursue her dream regardless of the pandemic.
“To qualify for another Olympics is really a privilege for me. It’s always a big honor to represent the country again. Medyo hindi naging maganda yun naging performance ko lastvtime, but I was there. The Olympics helped me become a better athlete, a better person. It is an inspiration for me to keep going on my career.,” said Tabal, who finished 124th in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
“For me, it’s one step at a time. But I still look forward to 2021.”
She said the pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 Seoul Marathon last February and the Standard Chartered and Scotia Bank Ottawa Marathon last May, which could serve as her tickets to the Tokyo Olympics.
A silver medalist in the 30th Southeast Asian Games in Manila last December, Tabal admitted the pandemic also caught her flat-footed, like most athletes preparing for the Tokyo Olympics..
“We are not really prepared for this kind of situation. The first two weeks of being locked down were very hard for me. The pandemic affected all of us, not only the athletes,”said Tabal told editors and reporters during the weekly forum sponsored by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).
Tabal said she tried her best to stay positive and creative this year.
“Last year -- 2019 -- was a disappointing year for me. But it gave me a new challenge. And I am really very motivated to go into 2020. I am fighting back this year with better plans. But then COVID happens. All my races have been postponed and then cancelled. Pati Tokyo Olympics. Kaya binago ko yun plans ko,” said Tabal.
“So I’m really looking forward to my races in 2021.”
The strict quarantine situation in Cebu also forced her to innovate.
“Yung bawal na lumabas, mahirap. Medyo nagka-anxiety ako sa simula kasi nga ang sport natin ay outdoor. Nagtiyaga na lang ako sa bahay na magpa-kundisyon ng katawan. Mayroon namang lugar sa tabi namin na around 60-meter hills kaya doon ako nag-eensayo. Iyong mga core exercises lang muna.”
Tabal also claimed the long quarantine period in Cebu also allowed her to explore other facets in life.
“Nagkaroon ako ng oras sa hilig ko na mag-bake. Ngayon, mayroon na din akong bakeshop online, na nakakapag deliver sa lugar namin,” said Tabal.
Also guesting in the public service program were Ciara Sotto and Ayjell Acejas, president and vice-president of the Philippine Pole and Aerial Sports Association (PPASA) and Justin Tan, organizer of the Isolation Basketball Championship (IBC).