PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia (UPDATED) - Mary Joy Tabal earned the Philippines' first gold medal of the 2017 Southeast Asian Games with a dominant performance in the women's marathon on Saturday at the Palace of Justice here.
Tabal set the pace right from the opening gun, and steadily built a huge lead over her pursuers.
She pulled away completely as she headed into the third of five loops around the route, and eventually finished with a time of 2:48.26.
Tabal, a Rio Olympian, was well ahead of her pursuers, Vietnam's Hoang Thi Thanh (2:55.43) and Thailand's Natthaya T (2:58.17).
"Kinakabahan po ako sa simula," admitted Tabal, who had settled for silver two years ago in Singapore. "Pero sa isip ko po, kasi mahirap po ang training ko."
"Kailangan ko po talagang ipakita sa lahat na kaya nating mga Pilipino na mag-tagumpay," she also said. "Nagpapasalamat po ako sa lahat ng mga Pilipino."
"Alam ko po na sa bawat hakbang ko kanina, nagdarasal po kayo."
Tabal, who was in tears after her triumph, is hoping that her performance will fire up the rest of the Filipino athletes seeing action in the biennial tournament.
"Focus po ako kanina kasi ayaw ko po talagang mabigo tayo lahat," she said. "Gusto ko po maging inspirasyon na magkaroon tayo ng medalya ngayon."
"Hopefully po, sunod-sunod na ito."
With Tabal delivering, the Philippines now has one gold, one silver, and two bronzes ahead of the opening ceremony on Saturday night.
Unfortunately, the Philippines' bet in men's marathon, Jeson Agravante, cramped up kilometers from the finish line and had to receive medical attention. He did not finish the event, along with a marathoner from Timor Leste and Thailand.
Singapore's Soh Guillaume triumphed in the men's marathon with a time of 2:29.27, followed by Indonesia's Prayogo Agus (2:31.20), and Malaysia's Muhaizar Bin Mohamad (2:31.52).
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