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31st SEA Games

Long jump queen makes final flight



photograph by RIO DELUVIO for the daily tribune MARESTELLA Sunang hangs her sneakers after 22 colorful years of campaigning for the national athletics team.

Marestella Sunang — Asia’s long jump queen — just made her final flight.

In an emotional social media post late Wednesday, the 41-year-old Torres announced that she will be retiring from the international arena, formally putting an end to a long and colorful journey that gave her four 31st Southeast Asian (SEA) Games gold medals, three Olympic appearances, an Asian title and a bouncing baby boy.

Her departure from active campaign came at a perfect time.

In the women’s long jump event of the SEA Games, she failed to land a medal after registering only 5.92 meters, a mark that is way below the records of competitors half her age.

In fact, the gold medalist in Vu Thi Ngoc Hoa of Vietnam tallied 6.39 meters despite being born in the same year she launched her national team career 22 years ago.

“Here comes the end of my SEA Games journey,” said Sunang, who still holds the SEA Games record of 6.71 meters that she achieved in the 2011 SEA Games in Palembang.

“This is my ninth SEA Games campaign at age 41 and I have been competing for 18 years in the SEA Games and 22 years since I became part of the national team.”

“It’s really heartwarming to represent the country in the field of sports. I did my part as an athlete of representing the country in the SEA Games, Asian Games, Asian Championships, World Championships and Olympics. I became a four-time SEA Games gold medalist, Asian champion and three-time Olympian. My record of 6.71 meters in the SEA Games still stands even if a lot of athletes from other countries want to break it.”

Sunang, whose marriage with fellow national team member Ely Sunang gifted them with a baby boy in 2014, said it’s time to pass the reign to young athletes who are capable of bringing glory to the country.

She also thanked her supporters and benefactors, especially the executives of the Philippine Sports Commission, Philippine Olympic Committee and the Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association (Patafa) headed by president Philip Ella Juico.

“It’s time to pass everything I learned in a bid to develop athletes who can surpass my achievements,” Sunang said, hinting at the possibility of venturing into coaching.

“As an athlete, even if I already achieved my goals in the field of sports, I still want something which my athletes should emulate.”

Juico said Sunang’s decision is expected, especially since younger athletes are starting to make their presence felt in the event that she used to dominate in the Asian level.

“I think we should talk right after the SEA Games,” Juico told Daily Tribune in an interview.

“I hope she goes into coaching so that she can help us develop a new breed of athletes. With her experience and achievements both in the local and international levels, I believe that she will be a very good mentor to younger athletes.”

Sunang said quitting is never easy.

But the bell is already ringing, signaling that it’s time for her to go.