The most important weapon in Eric Cray’s arsenal isn’t his powerful legs or solid shoulders.
It is his proper mindset.
Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association secretary general Edward Kho said Cray’s approach to the game has served as his biggest advantage in becoming a six-time Southeast Asian Games gold medalist.
In his latest conquest in the 32nd edition of the biennial meet last month, in fact, the 34-year-old Filipino-American withstood a nagging sports hernia and the raging summer sun to assert his dominance in the men’s 400-meter hurdles in front of a capacity crowd at the Morodok Techo National Stadium in Phnom Penh.
He crossed the finish line in 50.3 seconds and wasted no time in imitating Michael Jordan with that symbolic No. 6 sign to signal his formal claim on his sixth consecutive hurdles title.
Kho said Cray’s competitiveness helps him remain on top of the heap.
“I think what works for him is his mindset. He knows what he really wants and he knows how to value different competition levels,” Kho said.
“The way I know him, he doesn’t treat the competitions he joins the same way. He knows which competition will be for maintenance, which one will be for points and which one is the real deal.”
Kho said other members of the national squad should emulate Cray’s competitiveness and approach to the competition.
“He knows how to navigate. I hope all our athletes are like that so that their progression to higher levels of competition is more likely. Like him, they can also stay longer in their game,” Kho said.
“Having a good mindset is such a big deal.”
True enough, Cray validated Kho’s statement by saying that he gained an edge over other competitors by keeping himself fresh amid the blistering Cambodian weather.
“It gets you warmed up, man. You get warm-ups, go to the shade, get some AC (air-conditioning), come back and your body stays warm. It’s good for the body,” Cray said.
“If you use the sun properly, keeping your body active and making the blood flow, you can keep your body warm.”
Cray’s vaunted mindset will be greatly tested in key tournaments like the Asian Athletics Championships in Thailand from 12 to 16 July, the World Athletics Championships in Hungary from 19 to 27 August and the 19th Asian Games in China from 23 September to 8 October.
Of course, the biggest target is to hit 48.70 seconds to make it to the Paris Olympics next year.
Right now, he holds the national record of 48.98 seconds that he set at the Meeting de Atletismo Madrid in Spain on 23 June 2016.
“I’m looking forward to Paris and then we’ll go from there,” Cray said.
“Right now, my PB (personal best) is at 48. The goal is to get through my PB, break my PB and see where I can go next.”
Again, Cray won’t have to go hard in every competition.
All he has to do is to work smart and win every game with a smile on his face.
It’s mind over matter.