Unheralded Hallasgo dethrones champ Tabal in SEAG women’s marathon

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Unheralded Christine Hallasgo shouts for joy after flattening the field and grabbing the gold in the gurelling 42.95km full marathon race in the 30th SEAG. Congratulations!

CAPAS, Tarlac, Philippines – Unheralded Christine Hallasgo pulled off a huge surprise early Friday morning, dethroning defending champion Mary Joy Tabal to secure the women’s marathon crown of the 30th SEA Southeast Asia Games that began and ended inside the New Clark City Athletic Stadium here.

Hallasgo overtook the fading Tabal with one kilometer left just in front of the NCC Aquatics Center and surged ahead all alone at the finish line within the same stadium in two hours, 56 minutes and 56 seconds in a remarkable SEA Games debut.

Struggling behind her was Tabal, who slowly crumpled in a heap out of exhaustion, checking in at 2:58.49 and had to be carried off the track in a stretcher. The Cebuana walked on her own after 30 minutes, looking none the worse for wear.

Vietnam’s Pham Thi Tong Le came in a distant third (3:02.52) for the bronze in the 42.195-kilometer race that began with a foggy haze at dawn and ended under a hot sun.

Indonesia’s Agus Prayogo clocked 2:26.48 in ruling the men’s marathon with Thailand’s Sanchet Namkai (2:27.18) and Malaysia’s Muhaizar Mohamad (2:33.08) taking the silver and bronze, respectively.

Jerald Zabala finished fifth (2:37.20) while Anthony Nerza sixth (2:39.28) for the locals in the men’s division

“Hindi ko po akalain na mananalo ako. Tinignan ko lang po kung sino maabutan ko,” said Hallasgo, of Malaybalay, Bukidnon, of her stunning upset of the fancied Tabal, who had led early but showed signs of slowing down late into the 42.195-kilometer race.

In contrast to Tabal’s extensive overseas training and exposure, Hallasgo, known more as a 21K runner, merely trained locally and was a belated addition to the national team.

“I really was surprised by her (Hallasgo’s) victory although she was in our long list of possible options (for the women’s marathon),” said athletics chief Philip Ella Juico, who witnessed the arrival of both runners inside the VIP box of the arena.

“In fact, we asked BCDA official Arrey Perez if Hallasgo could check in with the rest of the national team at the Athletes Village here after our test event last Sept. 1 and we were fortunate that we got her in.

“Sa sarili ko po I just wanted to finish no matter kung anong mangyari. Alam kong walang na because I am so exhausted. I am just happy that finished second. Nakapag 1-2 kami (ni Hallasgo),” Tabal told reporters later.

Coming off more than two months of training in Japan, where the climate was relatively cool, the Cebuana runner said she got affected by the heat, adding she felt pressured performing in front of her compatriots “although I tried to use that as my motivation.” (LO/IAMIGO/CNS)

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