MANILA, Philippines – After dramatically qualifying for the long jump event in the 2016 Rio Olympics, Filipina track-and-field legend Marestella Torres is now hoping to at least make it to the finals of the competition in August.
The 35-year-old Torres is competing in her third Olympics after setting a new national record of 6.72-meters in Kazakhstan last July 4. Her sponsor and nutrition coach, Jim Lafferty of the Adopt an Olympian program, described it as "one of the greatest clutch performances I've ever seen in 35 years."
Torres committed a foul in her first jump, jumped 6.24-m in her second, and jumped 6.16-m in her third. Her fourth and fifth jumps were also fouls, giving her just one last jump wherein she needed to meet the Olympic qualifying standard of 6.70-meters.
Torres jumped 6.72-m in her final attempt, in the process setting a new national team record as well as a new Southeast Asian record. She held the previous record of 6.71-meters as well.
Torres competed in the 2012 London Olympics as well, but did not make the Top 12 after jumping 6.22-m in her third jump.
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Asked about her goals for Rio, Torres told reporters in Tuesday's send-off ceremony that she wanted to at least make it to the Top 12 this time around.
"Sa kundisyon ko ngayon, talagang ang pinaka-goal ko ngayon is makapasok sa Finals," she explained. "So hindi ko na tinitingnan 'yung distance. Basta makapasok lang ako sa finals."
In 2012, a jump of 6.40-m was enough to advance to the top 12, and Lafferty is confident that Torres can not only qualify to the finals, but even contend for a medal.
"We can try to get a 6.80-m jump," Lafferty said. "That puts her in the final, and that puts her in the medal round."
Lafferty said that the key is to bring down Torres' body fat percentage to 9% ahead of the Rio Olympics. Right now, Torres has a body fat of around 10%. She has been strictly adhering to the programs set for her by the Adopt an Olympian program, which has helped her stay injury-free for the past two years and make her best jump at 35-years-old, and after giving birth, at that.
"I think if we had Marestella at 21-years-old, she'd have an Olympic medal right now," Lafferty said. "She did the greatest jump of her life at the end of her career, and after childbirth."
"This is unheard of," he stressed. "Long jumpers peak at their 20s, not at 35."
Torres gave credit to the Adopt an Olympian program, especially its emphasis on yoga, for helping her maintain world-class level even towards the tail-end of her career.
"Tina-try ko 'yung iba't ibang approaches sa training, para mag-improve," she said. "Dati, paulit-ulit 'yung ginagawa ko. Ngayon, kung ano ang tinuturo sa akin na alam kong makakatulong, tina-try ko talaga."
"Proven naman na talagang nag-improve ang performance ko," she added.
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