Kristina Knott wins the 200m at the Southeast Asian Games (© AFP / Getty Images)
Sprints and jumps have provided the highlights of the first three days of the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Clark, the Philippines.
All three medallists in the men’s long jump exceeded the Games record of 7.87m, which had stood for 12 years. Indonesia's Asian Games bronze medallist and former sprinter Sapwaturrahman was the eventual winner with 8.03m (0.5m/s), just six centimetres shy of his PB.
Malaysia’s Andre Anura had two foul jumps that looked to land beyond eight metres, but the 20-year-old finally managed a legal jump on his last attempt, taking the silver medal with a national record of 8.02m (-0.1m/s). Thailand's 2017 Asian decathlon champion Suttisak Singkhon set a PB of 7.89m for bronze.
US-based Kristina Knott of the Philippines set two Games records in the women’s 200m. Her 23.07 clocking in the heats erased the previous mark of 23.30 that had stood for 18 years, but she went even quicker in the final, taking gold in 23.01 (0.0).
Defending champion Le Tu Chinh had to settle for second place in 23.45, but the Vietnamese sprinter gained revenge in the 100m, taking gold in one of the closest finishes of the athletics programme so far. She retained her title in 11.54 as Knott was second, just 0.01 behind.
Singapore’s Veronica Shanti Pereira, who had won the 200m in 2015, picked up bronze medals in the 100m (11.66) and 200m (23.77), repeating the feat she achieved two years ago in Kuala Lumpur.
Some of the region’s top male sprinters may be absent, but it has paved the way for new faces to make their mark.
Muhammad Haiqal Hanafi, who only entered the Games as a replacement for an injured athlete, ensured the men’s 100m title remained in Malaysian possession as he clocked a PB of 10.35 (-0.1m/s) to take the gold medal.
“I managed to execute my race strategy, whichwas to be the first to leave the blocks, take the lead, and maintain it by driving my arms as powerful as possible,” he said.
The 20-year-old took 0.04 from his previous best of 10.39 that he set during the morning heats, where he finished behind Thailand’s Ruttanapon Sowan who ran 10.34 (-0.1). Sowan and his compatriot Bandit Chuangchai settled for silver and bronze in 10.49 and 10.52 respectively.
The diminutive Chayut Khongprasit, who stands 1.63m tall, claimed a surprise 200m gold in 20.71 (0.0), edging out his compatriot and pre-race favourite Siripol Punpa (20.78).
It was the same for Vietnamese sprinters in the men’s 400m, with Tran Nhat Hoang (46.56) and his teammate Tran Dinh Son (46.68) securing gold and silver.
Meanwhile, Vietnam’s Nguyen Thi Huyen earned her seventh SEA Games gold medal after winning the women’s 400m by more than a second in 52.80.
Indonesia’s Maria Natalia Londa now has 12 SEA Games medals, including five gold. The 2014 Asian games champion won the women’s long jump with 6.47m, defeating Thailand’s Asian champion Parinya Chuaimaroeng (6.23m). A day earlier, Chuaimaroeng clinched the gold medal in women’s triple jump (13.75m), beating Londa into second (13.60m).
Host nation flying high
The host nation secured the pole vault titles with the former Games record-holders – both from Thailand – having to settle for the silver medals.
World University Games and Asian champion EJ Obiena added 10 centimetres to the SEA Games record, winning the men’s final with 5.45m as Porranot Purahong of Thailand finished second with 5.20m.
Obiena’s teammate Natalie Uy won the women’s pole vault, also setting a Games record of 4.25m, bettering the old mark held by Thailand’s defending champion Chayanisa Chomchuendee, who was second this time with 4.00m.
Malaysia’s Lee Hup Wei earned his fourth SEA Games gold medal in the men's high jump. The 32-year-old, who reached the final at the recent World Championships in Doha, cleared 2.21m to secure the gold medal on countback from defending champion and teammate Nauraj Singh Randhawa.
Indonesia’s Agus Prayogo, 34, captured his sixth SEA Games gold after winning the men’s marathon (2:26:48) on the first day of competition. He returned to the track on the second day, hoping to add another gold from the 10,000m, which he had won four times since 2009, but, lacking freshness, he finished second in 30:22.13, three seconds behind Thailand’s Kieran Tuntivate (30:19.28).
Elsewhere, Thailand's Boonmawan Kittipong threw a Games record of 67.56m to win the men’s hammer, while Vietnam’s Duong Van Thai secured his seventh SEA Games gold in a tactical men’s 1500m final, clocking 4:06.63.
Mixed relays were contested for the first time at the SEA Games, with the Philippines winning the 4x100m (41.67), and Vietnam triumphing in the 4x400m (3:19.50).
The Philippines hasn’t had significant success at the SEA Games in recent years, but with two days of athletics action left, the host nation has already banked seven gold medals, three silver and one bronze.
Jad Adrian Washif for World Athletics