Tabal sets sights on repeat win

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    CAPAS, Tarlac. — Winning the gold even if it means not improving her personal best.
    This is the target of Mary Joy Tabal who will defend the women’s marathon crown in the 30th Southeast Asian Games on Friday in and around the New Clark City National Stadium here.

    “Mas mahalaga sa aking na manalo ng gold, lalo na sa harap ng mga kapwa Pilipino. ‘Yung time, pangalawa na lang,” Tabal said in a press conference at the NCC Athletes Village.

    Fresh from over two months of intensive training at the Japan Institute of Sports Sciences in Kita, Japan, the five-time Milo marathon queen said she and coach John Philip Duena, who arrived last week, have devised a plan to enable her to retain her crown.

    “Iba ‘yung strategy in improving the time and iba naman po if you want to win a race,” the petite and pretty Cebuana, a 2016 Rio Olympic Games veteran, said.

    Tabal has a personal best of two hours, 43 minutes and 31 seconds that she set in a Canadian marathon three years ago that earned her a ticket to Rio.

    Her winning time in the 2018 Malaysia SEA Games was 2:48.26, nearly seven minutes faster than the time of Vietnamese runner-up Hoang Thi Tanh (2:55.43).

    Tabal and Duenas said the rolling course for the marathon is more difficult to what the marathoner ran in Malaysia two years ago “so we are devising strategies for that, rain or no rain. We have prepared for all kinds of racing conditions on Friday.”

    She said that after the Christmas break she will resume competing overseas in a bid to make it to the Tokyo Olympics in August next year.