CEBUANA Mary Joy Tabal went emotional after completing her training program in Japan as she was touched by the messages of her coaches and teammates at the Nippon Sports Science University (NSSU).

The 27-year-old marathoner trained at NSSU for about six weeks to prepare for the 2016 Rio Olympics, which opens this Friday in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Tabal flew from Japan to Brazil last night, which is a 36-hour flight.

On her arrival, Tabal will be welcomed by some officials of the PHL team, and she will join the opening ceremonies this Friday.

Tabal said that before leaving Japan, her teammates at NSSU organized a goodbye gathering and sent messages to her. She was touched by the gesture and messages of the Japanese athletes and coaches, especially the message of the head coach of NSSU women’s team, Youhei Sato.

“He (Sato) told me that he is thankful that I chose to train with the NSSU team because when I came, he saw that his athletes became even more spirited in training and he saw that they are working harder. He saw that most of the athletes in NSSU were inspired by my story and are also aiming to make it to the Olympics,” said Tabal, whose training is backed by Motor Ace-Kawasaki Racing Team.

Aside from the compliment, Sato also challenged Tabal to give her best shot in the Olympics.

“He told me that I helped ignite the team’s fighting spirit because I inspired them so I should do well in Rio so I can return to Japan,” Tabal said, who trained with the college students of NSSU aspiring to make it to Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Tabal’s head coach in Japan Akio Usami, a former Olympian, evaluated Tabal last week and said that the country’s bet for the women’s marathon is all set for the biggest sporting stage in the world.

Tabal will arrive more than a week before her event, which is set on Aug .14. She will have a little bit of time to adjust to Brazil’s weather and time zone. Tabal’s long-time coach John Philip Dueñas will be flying to Brazil on Aug. 10 to help with the conditioning before the race.

Tabal is the only athlete in the PHL delegation without a coach traveling with her. Dueñas is a personal coach of Tabal and his expenses will be shouldered by Motor Ace Philippines.

Tabal targets to finish the 42-kilometer race in Rio in 2 hours and 40 minutes. Her personal best time is 2:43:31 in the ScotiaBank Ottawa Marathon in Canada, where she made the 2:45 Olympic-qualifying time.

Tabal lands in the record books as the first Filipina marathoner to make it to the Olympics, and the first Olympian from Cebu after 20 years.