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Eric Cray, Athletics team out to end 24-year medal drought

A prepared and confident Lucky 13 Philippine athletics’ team, led by trackster Eric Shauwn Cray and pole vaulter EJ Obiena, plunges into action starting on Saturday in the 2018 Asian Games at the Gelora Bung Karno Main Complex in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Cray and Obiena, who are both coming off impressive performances in recent Asian tournaments, have the best chances of giving the Philippine athletics’ team a medal in these games, but Philippine Athletics’ Track and Field Association (PATAFA) president Dr. Philip Juico is hopeful that the rest of his athletes can deliver.

The last athletics’ medal captured by the Philippines in the Asian Games came in 1994 courtesy of Elma Muros with a 6.41-meter leap in the long jump.

Juico fervently hopes the drought ends here in Jakarta.

“If everything goes right, like timing, pacing, many of our athletes like even Harry Diones and Janry Ubas, can also spring some surprises,” said Juico, who himself was appointed jury of the Asian Athletics Association (AAA) in charge of the athletics’ disciplines these games.

Reigning Southeast Asian Games decathlon champion Aries Toledo begins the ball rolling with the 100 meters at 10 a.m. on Saturday before his 10:45 a.m. long jump competition and the 12 noon shot put. He winds up his busy decathlon day with the high jump later at 6:50 p.m. and the 400 meters in the night cap at 9:30 p.m.

Ubas, the bronze medalist in the long jump of the 2017 SEA Games and decathlon in the 2015 edition of the biennial meet, tries to qualify in the finals of the long jump at 6:50 p.m.

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But what excites Juico is the association’s newest find, Kristina Marie Knott.

“The one thing good about Kristina Knott is, very few in Asia know anything about her. The first time they saw her in action was about a month ago in the Vietnam Open, which was the last tournament we took part in before the Asian Games,” said Juico.

The Fil-American Creative Writing student of University of Miami runs in the 100M heats at 6:30pm on Saturday.

In the coming days, Cray, who is coming off a gold medal in the 400M hurdles of the 2017 Asian Athletics Championships and a silver in the 60M Run of the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games, takes part in the 400M hurdles and the 4×100 relay with Trenten Beram, Anfernee Lopena and Clinton Bautista.

Beram is also joining the 800 meters, while Bautista is slated to compete in the 110m hurdles.

Obiena, the pole vault favorite in the SEA Games before he was sidelined by an ACL tear, is now fully recovered. He competes in the pole vault on Aug. 29, where he is one of the favorites.

Marco Vilog is the Philippines’ bet in the 800 meters, while Francis Medina takes part in the 400m Hurdles.

Mary Joy Tabal, who has been training in Tuscany for several months, joins the marathon tomorrow, while Marestella Sunang makes what could be her last hurrah in these games in the triple jump competitions on August 27.

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