Don’t be surprised if you see Fil-American Eric Cray flashing the no. 6 sign, ala basketball superstar Michael Jordan.
Because in these parts, he is the GOAT (greatest of all time) on the track.
The ageless Cray added a never-heard-of 6th straight 400-m hurdles’ gold to his growing legend, hence the finger sign, to go with two others outside of his pet event, to crown himself as the Southeast Asian Games’ most successful trackster, if he ain’t already is.
“A year after COVID, five (titles) and now six (like) Jordan, six and O. That’s a little thing I got going with my coach,” said the 34-year-old Cray, whose victory was made all the more impressive by the fact that he ran hurt.
Bugged by a nagging sports hernia, Cray weathered the pain to storm to a 50.03-second clocking in his favorite event, to beat Thailand’s Natthapon Dansungnoen (50.73) and Singapore’s Calvin Quek (50.75). The Philippines’ other entry, Alhryan Labita placed 7th in 53.89.
Cray’s time was way below his own Philippine record of 48.98, achieved at the IAAF World Challenge in Moratalaz, Madrid in 2016, but it was enough to give him a sixth consecutive 400m hurdles’ crown and eighth gold overall. His other two came in the 100m during the 2015 Singapore games and the 4×100 mixed relay in the 2019 edition at the New Clark City Stadium in Tarlac.
“I got a little bit of pain. It’s been lingering for two months, but I manage,” said Cray, catching his breath as a swarm of reporters surrounded him. “This means everything. This is a product of hard work, dedication.”
“You know, we just showed a lot of perseverance. I have a lot of drive, dedication for 10 years,
ups and downs after injuries and everything I’ve been through,” said Cray, who is aching to make a return to the Olympics, to be held in Paris in 2024. He last made the Olympics in Rio in 2016, before injury forced him to skip the qualifying for the 2020 (2021) Tokyo games.
The next step is the Asian Championships, which is a qualifying tournament for the Olympiad.
“That is the goal,” said Cray, who is still undecided on whether to shoot for a 7th straight 400m hurdles’ gold when the biennial meet is held in Thailand in 2025.
“I gotta qualify first in Paris (2024), then I’ll take it from there,” he said.
Of course, he will aim for no. 7. Because in these parts, Cray is king.