Kuala lumpur, 29 Aug 2017: The athletics competitions of the 29th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games concluded at the KL Sports City, Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur on Saturday (26). Seventeen athletes successfully defended their individual titles from last edition. A triple gold by Nguyen Thi Huyen and Le Tu Chinh was among the stellar shows brought by the Vietnamese athletes apart from the outstanding results in triple jump. No fewer than 31 national records were established. At least ten new games record were set or equalled including two in the relays along with one SEA regional record by Malaysia’s Hakimi Ismail.
Young sprinters shine
During the recent Asian championship Khairul Hafiz Jantan was disqualified in the final after having run 10.24s in a pouring rain during his semi-finals, a performance that was faster than the times recorded in the finals. He was seen as the man to beat here as he won the heats easily in 10.34s (wind: +0.3 m/s), ahead of Thailand’s former champion Jirapong Meenapra (10.46s). The final’s night saw the Malaysian youngster takes the men’s 100m gold from the Philippine’s defending champion Eric Cray as he crossed the line assertively ahead of Cray in a thrilling century-dash finals, 10.38s to 10.43s (0.0). “The crowd was amazing and I'm very happy to have won gold for my country," the 19-year-old said who has recorded 10.18s in 2016 to become the fastest 18-year-old sprinter in the world that year.
Cray who was born in Olongapo gave everything over the closing stages to beat Thailand’s Kritsada Namsuwan on the line, who has also registered 10.43s to take third position. Ninety minutes earlier, the 2016 Olympian and Asian champion Cray managed to hold off the late surge of Vietnam’s Quach Cong Lich to defend his gold at 400m hurdles by a mere two-hundredths of a second in 50.03s.
During the Malaysian national championship in July, the 5’6” Hafiz clocked a lifetime best of 20.90s to break M.Jegathesan’s national 200m record (20.92s) which has stood for 49 years since the Mexico Olympics. However, Hafiz’s ambition of completing 100/200 double seems to be affected by a hamstring problem which he experienced just a week prior to his first sprint race. The 200m final race saw US-based Trenten Beram of the Philippines secure the gold comfortably in a new national record of 20.84s (0.0). A day later, 21-year-old Beram whose family moved to New York in 1970’s earned his second gold, winning the men’s 400m in 46.39s to complete a double in his first SEA Games appearance.
Meanwhile, Le Tu Chinh of Vietnam emerged as the queen of sprints as she fiercely dominated the short dashes, earning gold medals from the 100m in 11.56s and 200m in 23.32s, beating Malaysia’s Zaidatul Husniah Zulkifli who was second in both events in 11.74s and 23.64s, respectively. The unstoppable 20-year-old then teamed up with Nguyen Thị Mong Tuyen Tran Thị Yen Hoa, and Do Thị Quyen to win the 4x100m in a new Games record of 43.88s.
Vietnamese women rule track events
Female athletes were the key success for Vietnam as they bagged 13 gold, and of these 10 on the track.
Defending Asian champion Nguyen Thi Huyen was another outstanding performer as she retained the three gold medals she won at Singapore in 2015. The 24-year-old Huyen who stands at 5’2”, was well ahead of her competitors when won the 400m hurdles by nearly 4.5 seconds in 56.06s, a personal best and Games record. She went on to win the 400m easily in 52.48s before claiming her third gold from the 4x400m relay (3:33.40s).
The country of 92 million populations also produced some impressive marks in other events. Bui Thi Thu Thao registered an opening round of 6.64m in long jump, then sailed out to 6.68m (+0.2) national record to win gold medal.
Vu Thi Men reached 14.15m (+0.1) national record to take triple jump gold, shattering a lifetime best by 45 centimetres, which also nearing Maria Natalia Londa’s SEA regional record of 14.17m. The Indonesian Londa who in the last two editions won a long/triple double now settled in second position in both events with 6.47m and 13.52m, respectively. Likewise, Nguyen Thi Oanh takes the victories in the 1500m (4:20.51s) and 5000m (17:23.20), while Tran Thi Yen Hoa won the 100m hurdles in 13.40s (+0.7).
The persistent discus thrower Irfan Shamsuddin, who in May recorded 62.55m personal best is still nursing a worrisome back pain and ankle injury. But the Asian championship silver medallist was highly motivated, yielding an opening throw of 55.87m. After a foul in second throw, he hurled the discus to 58.36m distance in his third round to defend his gold for the third time.
Smashing a 23-year-old national record earlier this year with 13.67s, Rayzam Shah Wan Sofian, 29, regained SEA Games title over 110m hurdles from 10 years prior with a stunning show that lasted 13.83s (-0.1), defeating Thailand’s four-time SEA Games champion Jamras Rittidet (14.10s) in second.
Hakimi Ismail managed to recover at the right time from a series of setbacks to defend his triple jump title. Following a good opening round jump of 16.44m, the PE student got better in every round. He finally set a 16.77m (+0.2) Games record in the last round, bettering his personal best and SEA regional record by one centimetre to beat the Philippine’s Asian championship silver medallist Mark Harry Diones (16.63m, +0.3) in second.
The men’s high jump saw a charming rivalry between Malaysian competitors. With a PB of 2.30m, Nauraj Singh, an Olympian and world championship representative took his third consecutive gold as a result from his first attempt clearance of the 2.24m. Lee Hup Wei, a former Asian champion and also three-time SEA Games champion was awarded silver medal as he needed a few attempts to clear the same height. Both chose to skip 2.26m but they were unable to get over the 2.28m.
Thailand relies experienced athletes
None of Thailand’s gold medals were contributed by newcomers, but the defending SEA Games champions. Subenrat Insaeng whose personal best is 61.12m has thrown 55.23m to capture her fourth consecutive victory in women’s discus throw, Chayanisa Chomchuendee cleared 4.10m in women’s pole vault to win her third SEA Games gold as achieved by Natta Nachan in the javelin throw (55.04m), Sunisa Khotseemueang retained her heptathlon title in 5430 points. Porranot Purahong retained his gold in men’s pole vault, shattering the Games record by 5 centimetres with 5.35m clearance. The men’s relay teams delivered gold and Games record in the 4x100m (38.90s), also retaining the 4x400m gold (3:07.25s).
Elsewhere, Indonesia’s Triyaningsih achieved an eleventh SEA Games gold to her name as she won the women’s 10,000m (36:39.37s), Olympian May Joy Tabal of the Philippines won the women’s marathon in 2:48:26s despite a contentious lead up to SEA Games, and 17-year-old Grace Wong of Malaysia established a new Games record of 59.24m to take the top spot in women’s hammer throw.
Aries Toledo of the Philippines renewed no fewer than five personal bests to amass a total point of 7433 to beat Thai Suttisak Singkon, the recently crowned Asian champion with a score of 7732 points, who tallied 7411 points. Based on personal bests, Singkon appears to be losing almost 200 points in the 400m, while Toledo added over 130 points from pole vault. Jackie Wong set a new Games record of 65.90m to deliver gold for Malaysia in men’s hammer throw, Vietnam’s Duong Van Thai earned his sixth SEA Games gold from the triumphs in men’s 800m (1:48.97s) and 1500m (3:51.44s).
The 2017 SEA Games edition saw Vietnam athletics team dethrones Thailand’s athletics dominance in the regional games to top the medal table with a haul of 17 gold, 11 silver and six bronze. Thailand was in second overall with a haul of 9-13-11, just ahead of the host country Malaysia that ended their campaign with the best accomplishment since 1999 (8-8-9).
According to the latest news, the Philippines reversed its withdrawal, confirms it will host the next edition of SEA Games at Manila in 2019.
Jad Adrian Washif for the Asian Athletics Association