Eric Cray wins 400m hurdles gold at Asian championships

 

MANILA–Eric Shauwn Cray revived Philippine athletics’ glory years in Asia by winning the 400m hurdles gold medal at the 22nd Asian Athletics Championships in Bhubaneswar, India.

 

The 2016 Rio Olympic Games semifinalist clocked 49.57 secs. to beat silver medalist Chen Chieh of Chinese-Taipei (49.75) and bronze winner Jabir MP of India (50.22).

Twenty nine-year-old Filipino-American hurdler Eric Shauwn Cray won the country's first Asian Athletics Championships gold medal in eight years following his 400m hurdles golden conquest in Bhubaneswar, India (phto from the Asian Athletics Association).

Twenty nine-year-old Filipino-American hurdler Eric Shauwn Cray won the country’s first Asian Athletics Championships gold medal in eight years following his 400m hurdles golden conquest in Bhubaneswar, India (phto from the Asian Athletics Association).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cray’s win is significant since this is the Philippines’ first gold at the Asian Championships since Marestella Torres-Sunang’s women’s long jump gold (6.51 m) in Guangzhou, China in 2009.

Then at the 2011, 2013 and 2015 editions of Asia’s premiere athletics conclave, the country was shut out of the medals.

And before Torres-Sunang’s Guangzhou feat, the last time the Philippines won gold at the Asian Championships was Lydia de Vega-Mercado’s 1987 golden sprint double (100m: 11.43 secs.; 200m, 23.38 secs.) in Singapore.

On July 7, Cray topped heat 2 with 50.85 secs. that became the second-fastest time (behind Chieh’s 50.64 secs. in heat 1). The top eight runners in the three heats qualified for the finals yesterday (July 8).

World rankings in the 400m hurdles of All-Athletics.com (as of July 4) put Cray at no. 36 and second among Asians.

At the Rio Olympics last year, Cray reached the semifinals. In his semifinal heat, Cray clocked 49.37 secs. to place seventh (Japanese Keisuke Nozawa was sixth [49.20 secs.] in the same semifinal heat as Cray’s).

But during the preliminary heats in Rio, Cray actually posted his fastest time of 49.05 secs. to place third in heat 4 and reach the semis.

American Kerron Clement won the 400m gold in Rio with a time of 47.73 secs. The world record in the event is 46.78 secs., set by American Kevin Young at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

Cray’s win will give him momentum heading into the 2017 World Athletics Championships set this August 5-13 in London.

Even though the entry standard for the 400m hurdles is 49.37 secs., the website of the International Athletics Federation (IAAF) wrote those who can qualify also include “Athletes who achieve a certain finish at designated competitions. In many cases for individual events these will be at area championships (such as the European Championships) and must be confirmed by national federations.”

This means Cray’s contintental championships win in India will book him a spot in London.

Cray’s gold, plus the men’s triple jump silver medal of Mark Harry Diones (16.45m) and the men’s pole vault bronze medal or Ernest John Obiena (5.50m) are all helping resuscitate Philippine athletics at the Asian level. The India conclave and Cray’s semifinal finish in Rio are showcases of the ongoing reform efforts of the Philippine Amateur Track and Field Federation (PATAFA).

From the 1990s heading into the new millennium, female long jumpers Elma Muros-Posadas, Lerma Bulauitan-Gabito and Torres-Sunang had won medals at the biennial Asian Championships for the Philippines, including Torres’ 2009 gold medal.

The PATAFA is also hoping for a better performance in this coming Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur. At the 2015 Games in Singapore, Cray (who won two gold medals) towed the Philippines to a 5 gold-7 silver-9 bronze performance. PATAFA’s Singapore milestone plus having three athletes in Rio won for PATAFA the national sports federation of the year (2016) by the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA).

About JEREMAIAH M. OPINIANO