Philippines duo show their class
After SEA Games heroics, Herrera and Martes begin winning at the Masters
Rene Herrera and Christabel Martes of the Philippines ruled their respective events during their heyday and the duo showed their class yesterday at the 19th Asia Masters Athletics Championships at the National Stadium.
Herrera easily bagged the gold in the men's 3,000m steeplechase (35 to 39 age group) in his debut with a time of 9min 45.70sec.
Sri Lanka's J.G.S, Ranjith, 38, finished second (9:47.92), while countryman M Ajanthan, 37, claimed the bronze (10:27.92).
Participating for the first time in the Asia Masters, Rene said: "When I watched them from the stands, I saw myself. I was always inspired by those before me and I believed that I would become like them."
Also participating for the first time in the championship was countrywoman and national marathon record-holder Martes.
The two time South-east Asia (SEA) Games marathon champion (2001, 2005) claimed the gold in the women's 2,000m steeplechase (35 to 39 age group) with a time of 7:37.16, way ahead of India's Madhwal Lalita, 37, in second (8:11.94), with Singapore's Dianna Thor, 36, coming home in third (8:34.96).
Said the 36-year-old Martes: "I'm really happy to have won and I want to dedicate this win to my nine-year-old daughter, Maryam Sophie.
"I really miss her, it's a long journey from home and I will be able to see her only on Monday."
Both champions from the Philippines made the call for more funds to be pumped into the sport at home.
"I feel that the lack of funding affects the quality of the output in terms of athletes and, although our association gives us funds, it is not enough," said Herrera, who won gold in the steeplechase at five SEA Games (2003, '05, '07, '09, '11) and is now the coach of the Philippine long-distance running.
"With more funding, I believe that we will be able to see more improvements."
Martes cited the lack of funding for youth development, when she said: "The gold medallists are okay because they get allowance, but many youth athletes give up their dreams due to a lack of funding and join the military or go overseas to work.
"How can you expect a good performance without proper financial support?"
Martes will run in the 1,500m today and 5,000m tomorrow and hopes to end her campaign here on a high note.
"The 5,000 is my main event and I hope to go home with a gold for that," she said.
"But, in the past, my mind always thought about performance, now all that I can think about is my daughter."
Herrera will run in the same two events in the men's category.
Beyond that, he is not sure if he will be competing at the World Masters Championships in Perth in October.
"I have new responsibilities now that I'm a national coach," he said.
"It has been difficult for me to juggle training the athletes and my own training, but I'm slowly getting the hang of it.
"My eventual goal is still to win a gold medal in the World Masters."