The Philippines suffered twin defeats in athletics Tuesday with Eric Cray failing to get past the semis of the men’s 400m hurdles and Marestella Torres Sunang unable to advance in the women’s long jump at the Nilton Santos Stadium here.
Cray, who made it to the semis by clocking 49.05 seconds in his heat the other night, ran a little slower this time at 49.37. He finished seventh among eight runners in his heat and 17th among 24 semifinalists. The top eight made it to Thursday’s finals.
Sunang, who’s in her last Olympics, said she hurt her hips during warmup and had a best jump of 6.22 meters, on her first attempt. It was off her personal best of 6.72 meters, which he established at the Kazkhstan Open last month.
With Cray and Sunang out of contention and flying home on Aug. 19, only taekwondo jin Kirstie Elaine Alora is the only Philippine bet still in contention.
The 26-year-old Alora, who’s been here in Rio since July 23, will see action in the women’s +67 kg on August 20, against the 2008 Beijing Olympics gold medalist from Mexico, Maria Espinoza.
Alora is confident she can handle Espinoza, also a bronze medalist in the 2012 London Olympics. If the Filipina succeeds against the Mexican, she boosts her chances of making it to the medal rounds.
A medal of any color from Alora will give the Philippines its best finish it the Olympics. Ten days ago, weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz won the silver medal in the women’s 63 kg division. It was the first Olympic medal for the Philippines since boxer Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco won the silver in Atlanta in 1996.
“Anything is possible in taekwondo,” said chef-de-mission Jose Romasanta.
The 35-year-old Sunang jumped 6.10 on her second jump and 6.15 on her third and final attempt. She said she hurt herself on her warm-up jump when her feet landed on an uneven portion on the sand that was left unattended by officials.
Cray, who was born in Olongapo but now based in El Paso in Texas, came to Rio carrying a personal best of 48.96 set in Madrid only last June.
From 38 jumpers, a dozen made it to Wednesday’s finals, led by Ivana Spanovic of Serbia (6.87) and followed by Malaika Mihambo of Germany at 6.82 and Reese Brittney of the United States at 6.78. The 12th and last finalist, Jazmin Sawyers of Great Britain, was at 6.53.
Sunang could have made it to the finals without equaling or surpassing her personal best. All she needed to finally make it to the Olympic finals of her event was to do 6.53 or longer. She wound up 28th among 38 entries in women’s long jump.
Cray, who ran on lane No. 7, was doing well until the seventh or eighth hurdle but did not clear the 10th hurdle well. It cost him time and the race, denying the 27-year-old the chance to make it to the finals of his event in his first Olympics.
“It was a crazy race, way fast, pretty fast. I think my first 250 was faster than yesterday. I tried to go some more but since the pace was faster than yesterday it kind of messed me up,” said Cray, not feeling bad at all because he knew he gave his best.
“I think I was in second until about the eighth (hurdle).”
“But the pace was so fast my legs started to give out early. I couldn’t get it together. And then I hit the 10th hurdle really hard and that’s when the Kenyan (Boniface Tumuti) took off on me,” said Cray.
Kerron Clement of the United States will lead the finalists after clocking 48.26 in the semis, followed by Annsert Whyte of Jamaica in 48.32 and Thomas Barr of Ireland in 48.39. All eight finalists ran in the 48s.
Philippine Olympic Committee president Jose Cojuangco watched the athletics action from the VIP stands, along with POC secretary-general Steve Hontiveros and Philippine Track and Field Association director Benjamin “Chippy” Espritu.
Diaz and nine other athletes have left Rio for their respective homes, including table tennis Ian Lariba, golfer Miguel Tabuena, weightlifter Nestor Colonia, swimmer Jessie Khing Lacuna, marathoner Mary Joy Tabal and boxers Charly Suarez and Rogen Ladon to Manila; judoka Kodo Nakano to Japan; and swimmer Jasmine Alkhaldi to Hawaii.