■ Ofelia C. Empian
Cordilleran athlete Sandi Menchi Abahan ended her year with a bang as she snagged a bronze medal in the Spartan Race-Beast 21-kilometer elite world championship in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on Dec. 8 to 10.
Abahan finished the grueling obstacle race in two hours,45 minutes, and 42 seconds next to Lindsay Webster of Canada who clocked at 22:50 while champion Eszter Hortobagyiova of Slovakia finished at 2:22:41 in the Beast 21K.
Pilipinas Obstacle Sports Federation said Abahan is the first Asian to make it to the podium of the Spartan World Championships making it an incredible feat for the Baguio-raised athlete.
After joining the Obstacle Course Racing World Championships in Genk, Belgium in October where she was not able to hit the podium in her category, the Southeast Asian Games gold medalist vowed to improve on her performance, as she admitted she needed to work on her upper body strength and ninja race course moves.
As a result, she finished seventh place in the 3K elite series the Spartan World Championship while teammate Mervin Guarte placed 14th making them the only Asians to qualify for the finals.
Abahan said despite her injury in earlier competitions where she injured her shin to calf to the plantar fascia (a band of tissue, called fascia, that connects the heel bone to the base of the toes), she pushed through the competition, considered as the mecca of spartan races in the world.
During the race, fellow podium finishers Hortobagyiova and Webster mistakenly carried the two men’s sandbags but they were able to finish the obstacle course.
“I credit my mental training to the ultra-marathons I’ve done, in which I learned to play mind games. The entire time going against what your body wants to do. The entire time motivating yourself, being your own cheerleader. Fighting the whole way through,” Abahan said.
Starting out as a trail running endurance athlete who raked medals in national and international trail running events, Abahan slowly shifted into the OCR sports and has continued on the path since.