KUALA LUMPUR: After winning the gold medal in the women’s marathon event of the 29th Southeast Asian Games, Mary Joy Tabal will be staying in this bustling Malaysian capital to play a new role – cheerleader.
Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association (Patafa) president Philip Ella Juico said the petite Cebuana runner agreed to stay behind to cheer her teammates, who will see action in various athletics events starting Tuesday.
Juico, the former Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairman, said agreeing to support and bond with her teammates in this very crucial period was such a good gesture, especially since she’s training in Cebu and abroad most of the time.
The PSC stands to pay for the athletes’ accommodation two days before and one day after the SEA Games, Asian Games and other major international tournaments.
But in Tabal’s case, the federation agreed to shoulder her accommodation for the rest of the week so that she could spend some quality time with foreign-based and Manila-based teammates.
“It’s good that she agreed to stay here. At least she can get to cheer her teammates and spend some quality time with them,” said Juico, who is looking to surpass their five gold-medal production two years ago in Singapore.
Tabal, the four-time MILO Marathon champion, had a rocky relationship with Patafa.
She quit the federation shortly after winning the silver medal in the Singapore SEA Games in 2015 so she can move her training back to Cebu.
She sought reinstatement in 2016 after qualifying in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, but opted to quit again after having some disagreements with top federation officials over her training program.
Finally, she’s back.
And with a shiny gold medal hanging on her neck, it appears that the wounds of the past were finally healed.