MARY Joy Tabal may have not won a medal in the 2016 Summer Games, but she earned the respect and love of most of the Filipinos, especially from Cebuano athletes. Tabal, who was ranked 124th in the women’s marathon last Sunday, struggled with the hot weather in Rio, Brazil but fought valiantly to finish the race and ended up in a wheelchair due to cramps.

One of the many Filipinos who admired the toughness of the Tabal is three-time Olympian and silver medalist weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz.

“Ate friend na ata kita! Ate Tokyo (2020 Olympics) babawi ka!! Lots of loves. You did your best kaya OK lang,” Diaz wrote on Facebook.

The 27-year-old Tabal posted a status on Facebook apologizing for her performance. But the responses were all congratulatory messages and people commented that there’s no need to say sorry. The post earned close to 700 comments and around 3,000 likes as of 4 p.m. yesterday

“You only apologize when you go to battle and did not train for it. In this case, you did everything humanely possible. We are proud of you. Keep your head up and keep on dreaming. It is this attitude that got you to the Olympics. 2020 (Tokyo Olympics) is our target,” said Jonel Borromeo, president of Motor Ace Philippines.

The running and triathlon community of Cebu also showed its appreciation to Tabal and her feat as the first Filipino marathoner in the Olympics.

“For me, as a fellow Cebuano athlete, I am very proud of her. It marks the first time that a Filipina competed in the Olympic marathon and her making it there paves the way for the next generation. It’s a proud moment for every Cebuano athlete, especially for those who shared the same training grounds with her,” said Cebuano triathlete Kristiane Lim.

Lim said that the ranking does not matter as she is already in the Olympics, but Tabal fought with the world’s best marathoners and that alone speaks volumes.

“On the 124th place, well she could’ve just jogged her way and make it as her victory parade, she is already in the Olympics, but she went out there and put up a fight, knowing full well she is in a race that’s impossible to win. That for me speaks volumes of her character, she should be in the next Olympic cycle,” said Lim.

Mandaue City’s Joland Olmilla, a member of the national team for duathlon, said Tabal’s Olympic stint inspires them.

“I’m very happy for her, the ranking does not matter because we know it’s hard to get to the Top 10 in the Olympics. Being in the Olympics makes us Cebuano athletes happy and proud,” said Olmilla.

Milo Marathon Cebu Leg reigning champion Noel Tillor said that he salutes Tabal for completing the very tough course.

“I’m so very proud of her and I salute her. As a veteran of long distance running I know that running 42K is not easy, especially for Tabal who ran a very tough course in Rio. Mary Joy Tabal gave a good fight to finish the race, she endured and overcame the pain to achieve her dream and became a certified Olympian,” said Tillor.