OLYMPICS-bound Mary Joy Tabal continues to hone her skills as she aspires to become the number one female marathoner in Asia.

The 26-year-old Cebuana flew to Japan yesterday to prepare for the 2016 Rio Olympics which blasts off on Aug. 5 in Rio de Janerio.

Tabal, who will train for five weeks in Japan under the Nippon Sports Science University, told Sun.Star Cebu in an interview that after the stint in the Summer Games in Brazil, she’s going to target Asia next.

Tabal said that qualifying to the Olympics was no easy task and it was the biggest thing to ever happen in her life and career, but the dream does not stop there.

“My target after the Olympics is to achieve a gold medal in Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, and be the No. 1 female marathon not just in Southeast Asian region but in the whole Asia,” said Tabal, who was a silver medalist on her first SEA Games stint last year in Singapore.

The Asian record for the women’s marathon is 2:19:12, set by Mizuki Noguchi of Japan last Sept. 25, 2005 during the Berlin Marathon. Bahrain’s Eunice Kirwa won the gold in the Asian Games 2014 in 2:25:37.

The native of Barangay Guba, Cebu City said that she’s also aiming to compete in the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia. Aside from the races in Asia, Tabal wants to participate on the world stage and be in the same field with the elite marathoners.

Tabal has opened a myriad of opportunities when she finished in eighth place in the women’s division of the ScotiaBank Ottawa Marathon last month. Tabal clocked 2 hours 43 minutes and 31 seconds to qualify for the Olympics and get a chance to get invited in the world’s major races.

“I was able to get to the Top 10, and it’s one of the requirements to be invited in big races. By getting that feat, it will be easy for me to get invited in different major races in the world,” she said.

By placing in the Top 10, Tabal won a cash prize and a guaranteed slot for next year’s Ottawa Marathon.

Tabal, who was recently reinstated to the national athletic team, said she will be happy working with Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association Inc. (Patafa) for these goals.

A former sprinter of Southwestern University, Tabal was reinstated to the national team by Patafa, the national governing body for track and field, this month.

Tabal will don the country’s colors in the women’s marathon on Aug. 12, competing against the world’s best marathoners. She will be the first Filipina marathoner in the Olympics, and the first Olympian from Cebu after 20 years.