IT WAS an emotional night for the country’s top marathoner Mary Joy Tabal as her friends, family and the running community gathered to welcome her and celebrate the feat she achieved in Canada.

The welcome party at the Casino Español de Cebu last Monday night was thrown by Motor Ace Philippines, the company that financially backed Tabal in her Olympic dreams.

“I never thought of doing this just for myself. I dreamt and I worked for it. It took a lot of effort, pain, hard work and patience to achieve this. And I know I won't be here without the people who believed in me and supported me by all means. I am just lucky and fortunate that I met these people. And I know saying 'thank you' is not enough. From the bottom of my heart, I am really grateful for everything and I believe God sent you all to me,” said Tabal, who was crying while delivering the message.

“I hope you will continue supporting me because I know this is just the start. Hopefully, we get to Rio (Olympics),” she added.

Tabal qualified for the Olympics after clocking 2 hours 43 minutes and 31 seconds last May 29 in the ScotiaBank Ottawa Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Marathon. Tabal finished at eighth place and joined the runners from Ethopia, Canada, Israel and USA in the women’s Top 10. The Olympic qualifying time for women’s marathon is 2:45, and Tabal is the first Filipina marathoner to make the cut.

During the press conference, Motor Ace Philippines president Jonel Borromeo said that they have met with Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association (Patafa)’s president Philip Ella Juico and secretary general Renato Unso last Friday. He described the meeting as ‘fruitful.’

“We are going to follow the procedure which is to send a letter of reinstatement. We will start the process on June 7, and hopefully we can submit the letter in the afternoon,” said Borromeo.

"I think we have a good chance. We are doing the proper process with no shortcuts,” said Borromeo when asked on Tabal’s chances on getting to Rio Olympics.

Tabal, 26, needs to be a member of the national team for her to represent the country in the Rio Olympics in August. The native of Brgy.Guba, Cebu City resigned from the national squad in September last year, months after winning silver medal in the 28th Southeast Asian (Sea) Games in Singapore.

“I decided to resign because that was the best for me that time. I’d rather not to comment further on that anymore,” said Tabal, who joined the Motor Ace Racing Team in January this year.

After the submission of the letter, Tabal will wait for a week for the feedback from Patafa, the national sports association (NSA) for athletics in the country. The Philippine Team will submit the list of delegates for Rio Olympics before and on July 11.

Tabal, who had a previous personal best of 2:48, said that it was the failure in Boston that helped her achieve the Olympic time in Canada.

“The failure in Boston Marathon (last April) has helped me a lot on my second Olympic qualifier in Canada,” she said.

“I came prepared in Boston and I have big expectations on the race but I did not get the qualifying time. I was disappointed. A lot of people were telling me to go on because it’s just part of the trial. When I was getting ready for Canada I was more focused and had less pressure,” she stressed.

Tabal trained in Japan for two months before Boston Marathon and came back to prepare for two weeks prior to the Ottawa Marathon. Tabal attributed the technology and coaching in Japan on her improvements.

Kawasaki joins bandwagon

“In Japan I had different coaches and they had different functions. The time, discipline and nutrition were also a big factor. The technology also in Japan has seen that I had muscle soreness after Boston,” she said.

Tabal’s long-time coach John Philip Duenas said that while waiting for the Patafa’s response, they will resume training on Friday. If she gets the nod for Rio Olympics, she will be sent to Japan anew to train for the world’s largest stage.

“The objective is to get Joy (Tabal) to the Olympics. We are hoping to get a positive response,” said Borromeo.

Meanwhile, before the press conference, the partnership of Motor Ace Philippines and Kawasaki was officially launched—the Motor Ace-Kawasaki Racing Team.

“This is our way of giving back to the community thru sports. We are very excited that Motor Ace Philippines has selected us to be part of this endeavor,” said Cristina Layosa Doval Santos, Kawasaki’s Vice-President for Sales, Marketing and Customer Support.