CEBUANA Mary Joy Tabal is now officially the first Filipina marathoner to make it to the Olympics after the Philippine Amateur Athletic Association (Patafa) reinstated her as a member of the national squad yesterday.

Tabal had to pass through the eye of the needle to make it to the Olympics, as she had to run two Olympic qualifiers to make the 2 hours and 45 minutes qualifying time for women’s marathon. She finally got it on the second try at the ScotiaBank Ottawa Marathon last month in Canada where she clocked 2:43.31.

After getting the qualifying time, she had to write a letter of reinstatement to the national team to Patafa, the national sports association for the country’s track and field, before getting the go signal. Tabal resigned from the national team last year.

“The road to Rio is definitely not easy. I have to go through a lot before making this dream a reality. I am very excited and happy right now,” Tabal told Sun.Star Cebu after she received the confirmation e-mail from Patafa.

“We have long wanted to protect Mary Joy and we have questioned her racing schedule and its effects on her ability to sustain steady improvements over time. However, we also recognize that she qualified on her own. We put our differences aside, we reinstated her and we have allowed her to follow her training program despite our concerns. And we hope for the best in Rio for the nation," read part of Patafa’s statement.

Patafa will now have to endorse Tabal to the Philippine Olympic Committee once they receive word from the International Association of Athletics Federation confirming Joy’s qualification at the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon in Canada.

Tabal together with her major sponsors Chipi and Jonel Borromeo of Motor Ace Philippines met with Patafa officials led by Patafa president Philip Ella Juico last Monday at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex last Monday.

Mary Joy Tabal is the only Filipina marathoner to hit the IAAF Olympic qualifying time. According to, in athletics, in the last six Olympics only four Filipino athletes made the IAAF qualifying standard. Tabal joins that lists with Eric Shaun Cray in the men’s 400-meter hurdles (2016), Marestella Torres in women’s long jump (2012) and Lerma Buluitan Gaibto in women’s long jump (2004). The other track and field Olympians since year 2000 went as wild cards.

The 26-year-old Tabal, who’s an alumna of Southwestern University, will be accompanied by a designated national coach to the Rio Olympics, which kicks off on Aug. 5 in Brazil. Patafa said that Tabal and her sponsor have the liberty to bring their personal coaches to Rio at their own expense.

This is it

“I can’t put into words how happy I am, I still can’t believe that I’m going to Rio. Being in the Olympics for me, is like a story that you just read in books and it suddenly jumps out of the pages and turns real,” said Tabal.

“This is the biggest thing that ever happened to me, in my career and in my whole life. I feel very blessed to represent the country on the world’s biggest sporting stage,” she said.

Tabal thanked Motor Ace Philippines, Milo Philippines, Patafa and other sponsors like Asics Philippines, Garcia Group of Companies and Citigym, whom she said were instrumental in her feat.

"I am very thankful to Patafa for reinstating me to the national team. The Olympics does not happen to everyone. I am happy and very nervous at the same time because I have the entire nation to think about. This is it, it is the biggest race of my career. The only thing I can do now is make sure that I give my everything in the Olympics," Tabal said.

Tabal said there were four topics discussed—sponsorship, race events, coach and training venue—that were talked and two of that were already addressed, the other two will be decided after Rio.

“They have no problem with the sponsorship and regarding my race events it is OK as long as I plot the race ahead and get the confirmation of the national coaches. The agreement on who will be my coach and where is my training venue will be decided after Rio,” said Tabal.

Tabal, who has a humble start in running, said that hopefully this feat will inspire others and will motivate the other athletes.

“I think me going to the Olympics will have a big impact, especially to those who really know on how I started. They will be hopefully that everything is possible if you work hard and put your heart on your dream,” said Tabal.

To recall, Tabal started as a sprinter at SWU and even collapsed at the finish line on her first long distance race. She showed her potentials when she won the 2013 Milo National Finals and went on to a three-peat.

Tabal, a 28th Southeast Asian (Sea) Games silver medalist, trains with long-time coach John Philip Dueñas on the majority of her running career.

“Hopefully he (Dueñas) will be my coach since he was there since the start and we dream for Olympics together,” she said.

Tabal also said that Motor Ace Philippines is planning to send Duenas as her personal coach to Rio Olympics.

The women’s marathon event is slated on Aug. 12. Before the Olympic, Tabal will go back to Japan again to train.

Tabal trained in Japan under the Nippon Sports Science University for the 2016 Boston Marathon and the Ottawa Marathon in Canada.