Eric Cray, winner of the 100m at the Southeast Asian Games (© Getty Images)
Thailand dominated the athletics at the 28th Southeast Asian Games in Singapore, winning 17 of the 46 gold medals on offer during the six days of competition which concluded on Friday (12).
No fewer than 11 Games records, 42 national records and three Southeast Asian records were set at the newly built 55,000 capacity National Stadium.
Undoubtedly one of the top performers of the championships was Eric Cray of the Philippines. The Texas-based athlete clocked a national record of 10.25 (0.0m/s) to win the 100m, finishing comfortably in front of Indonesia’s Yaspi Boby and Iswandi, who took silver and bronze respectively in 10.45.
One day later, Cray successfully defended his title in the 400m hurdles, smashing the Games record with a time of 49.40, just outside the national record of 49.12 he set earlier this year. Vietnam’s Quach Cong Lich was second in 50.29.
Cray will contest the 400m hurdles at the IAAF World Championships, Beijing 2015 and will hope to improve on his performance in Moscow two years ago when he didn’t make it past the first round.
Indonesia’s Maria Londa successfully defended her titles in the long jump and triple jump. But the Asian Games champion was pushed all the way in the long jump by Bui Thi Thu Thao.
The Vietnamese athlete surprised the 24-year-old in the opening round with a national record of 6.58m, three centimetres farther than Londa’s PB. Londa fouled her first attempt and then jumped only 6.04m in the second round, while Thu Thao extended her lead to 6.60m.
But Londa responded in the third round with 6.70m, smashing her own national record by 15 centimetres and achieving the qualifying standard for the 2015 World Championships and 2016 Olympics.
Thu Thao tried her best to get back on top. Her next two jumps looked to beyond 6.80m, but her foot left noticeable marks on the plasticine. In the final round she sailed out to 6.65m, her third national record of the day, but not quite enough to catch Londa.
“I’m thrilled with my success to qualify for my first Olympics, all my hard work in training is paying off,” she told local reporters. “To achieve something in life, you must have true passion, dedication and motivation.”
The next day, Londa jumped 13.75m to win the triple jump in an even closer competition, finishing just two centimetres ahead of Thailand’s Thitima Muangjan.
The men’s event was won by Malaysia’s Hakimi Ismail, who smashed his own national record to win with a Games record of 16.76m.
Triple gold for Nguyen
Vietnam’s Nguyen Thi Huyen was the only athlete at the Games who has met the criteria for both the 2015 World Championships and 2016 Olympics in two individual events.
In Singapore, she first destroyed the Games record in the 400m hurdles, breaking her own national record with 56.15. She then set a PB and Asian-leading time of 52.00 to win the 400m. She capped off a successful week by anchoring the Vietnamese quartet to victory in the 4x400m, clocking a Games record of 3:31.46.
Nguyen’s Vietnamese compatriots Duong Van Thai and Do Thi Thao also won multiple titles. Duong won the men’s 800m and 1500m in 1:51.43 and 3:47.04 respectively, while Do took gold in the women’s events, clocking 2:05.22 and 4:28.39.
Indonesia’s Triyaningsih achieved a similar feat in the longer distances, winning the women’s 5000m and 10,000m in 16:18.06 and 33:44.53 respectively.
Thai dominance continues
Thailand’s Jamras Rittidet won his fourth consecutive Southeast Asian title in the 110m hurdles, breaking the Games record for the fourth time in succession. He clocked 13.69 (0.2m/s) to finish 0.28 ahead of Malaysia’s Rayzam Shah Wan Sofian, who once again had to settle for the silver medal.
In the women’s 100m hurdles, Rittidet’s training partner Wallapa Punsongneun regained the gold medal from Indonesia’s defending champion Dedeh Erawati, 13.56 to 13.61.
Having thrown beyond 60 metres this season, Thailand’s Subenrat Insaeng won the discus by more than 12 metres, setting a Games record of 59.56m to win her third consecutive title.
Thailand won three of the relay events, taking gold in the men’s 4x100m and 4x400m in 38.99 and 3:06.81, as well as the women’s 4x100m in 44.27.
Young stars shine
Singapore’s Veronica Shanti Pereira delighted the home crowd with victory in the women’s 200m. The 19-year-old set a national record of 23.60 to beat pre-race favourite Kayla Richardson, who finished second in 23.71.
Richardson, just 17, had earlier won the 100m in a photo-finish ahead of Thailand’s Tassaporn Wannakit, both clocking 11.76.
Another teenager won the men’s 200m. Vietnam’s Le Trong Hinh, 19, set a national record of 20.89 to take gold ahead of Thailand’s Jaran Sathoengram (21.05) and defending champion Jirapong Meenapra (21.13).
Malaysian 19-year-old Irfan Shamsuddin successfully defended his discus title with a distance of 56.62m.
The next edition of the Southeast Asian Games will be held in Kuala Lumpur in 2017.
Jad Adrian Washif for the IAAF