MANILA, Philippines – They call her the “long jump queen” of Southeast Asia, and Marestella Torres has more than lived up to the moniker: in the SEA Games in Indonesia last November, she set the long jump record for that event.
|Southeast Asia's long jump queen Marestella Torres.
Torres shattered multiple records – including her own personal best – with a jump of 6.71-meters at the SEA Games.
It was this jump that allowed Torres to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
“Yung qualifying, any competition basta makuha mo ‘yung standard. So mayroon kaming standard at nalampasan ko ‘yun,” Torres told ABS-CBNnews.com.
“Noong nakuha ko ‘yun, alam ko na makakasama ako sa Olympics. So doon pa lang, tuwang-tuwa na ako,” she added.
Torres also represented the Philippines in the 2008 Beijing Olympics but failed to advance to the second round, finishing 34th out of 38th. The 31-year-old athlete said she used that failure as a motivation to once again qualify for the Games.
Her coach, Josephy Sy, told ABS-CBN News Europe that he expects a better result for Torres this time around.
“For me, I think she is already ripe. The first Olympics were not that good, but for me, I think she can deliver,” he said.
Torres has been representing the Philippines in international competitions since she was 12 years old, but somehow, the drive to compete remains alive in the former Far Eastern University track star.
“Pag mayroon akong nakukuhang achievements, habang tinutugtog (ang 'Lupang Hinirang'), naga-aim ako,” she said. “Iniisip ko, sana ganito, sana sa Olympics naman, sana sa Worlds ganito naman.”
Dreaming of Olympic glory
Torres admitted that when she started out in her sport, she never expected to make it all the way to the Olympic Games.
“Naisip ko na lang ‘yun nung nandito na ako sa Manila, noong naging national team na ako. May mga Olympics pala,” she said. “Naisip ko na sana, makarating din ako sa ganyan. S’yempre, nangangarap din ako noong time na ‘yun.”
Torres discovered that she had a feel for the sport when she was in elementary.
“Sa liblib na lugar kami sa San Jose, Negros Oriental,” she said. “Nag-aaral ako dun, tapos may mga intrams na pinapatakbo kami, pinapatalon.”
“Siguro, nakitaan ako ng potential noong coach ko nung elementary... Pagpasok ko noon high school, marami ng opportunity,” Torres added.
Torres said her ability at long jump allowed her to visit various places for provincial meets, regional meets, and the Palarong Pambansa.
“Noong first time kong mag-compete sa abroad – kasi akala ko, dito lang ako pwede sa Pilipinas – sabi ko, pwede pala akong makapag-abroad dahil sa sport na ito,” she said.
Torres lost her first international competition, but it only fueled her fire.
“Sa ASEAN Games sa Malaysia, talo ako. Naisip ko, eto pala ‘yung nararamdaman kapag natatalo ka. Gusto mong lumaban ulit. Iniisip ko, pwede ko bang ulitin para makabawi ako?” she said.
In the London Olympics, Southeast Asia’s long-jump queen knows she will be an underdog, going up against established stars in the sport such as American Brittney Reese, who holds the USA record with a jump of 7.23 meters.
But Torres said she has a chance to pull a surprise in London.
“Sa long jump kasi, mayroong tinatawag na ‘lucky jump’ d’yan,” she explained. “Malakas ka man o mahina, mayroon ka talagang chance.”
“Mayroong anim na attempts. Minsan sila nakakagawa ng malayong talon, pero kung mapa-foul naman, magiging useless. Kung ikaw, kung good lahat ng jump mo kahit hindi ganoon kalakas, mayroon talagang chance,” she added.
Torres will line up for the women’s long-jump competition on August 7. – With a report from Edward Lao, ABS-CBN News Europe Bureau
ABS-CBNnews.com is coming out with a series of stories featuring the 11 Filipino Olympians starting July 17 up to the opening of the London Olympics on July 27.