DURING the 1994 Palarong Pambansa in Cebu City, an 11-year-old long legged lass named Chantal Balani became the darling of the games winning a total of four gold medals in the sprints and relay events.
She was immediately branded as the new Lydia de Vega.
She continued her stellar performances even during her early high school year but suddenly stopped. In spite of her great potential of becoming the new sprint Queen of Asia she never was named to the Philippine national team.
The only reason was that she did not want to transfer and train in Manila. The tall daughter of former Philippine Basketball Association player Woodrow Balani preferred to stay and train in Cebu and eventually in Hong Kong where her family are based.
Her dream of becoming a track superstar in the Philippines ended before it could take off. The main reason, the Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association (Patafa).
Now, Balani is in Hong Kong with her parents and family. She never had a chance of making it to the national team like her teammate in the 1994 Palaro, Maristela Torres. Torres is a successful national team member reaping medals in the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games and even seeing action in the Rio Olympics.
Balani and Mary Joy Tabal’s case is similar. Tabal is just lucky she has a cash rich supporter. Balani then did not have any and she could not sustain her dream of becoming a track superstar.
Marathoner Mary Joy Tabal has been training on her own with the support of a sponsor and has defied the Patafa.
The country’s national association in the sport of athletics, Patafa has accused Tabal of so many things like having her own coach and training in Cebu and abroad not in Manila.
Because of these, Patafa refused to name her to the Philippine Track and Field team to the SEA Games in August.
However, both parties have sat down and agreed to work together to insure that Tabal wins a gold medal in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The only reason why Patafa has agreed to take Tabal back is that she is worth a gold medal in Malaysia and the gods at the top cannot afford to lose a gold medal.
Remember, the Philippines won only one gold medal in women’s athletics in 2015 Singapore SEA Games.
Tabal finished second in Singapore and right now is in Italy training hard to get the gold medal in Malaysia. Her presence in Malaysia will be worth more than gold for the Patafa.
Published in the SunStar Cagayan de Oro newspaper on June 18, 2017.