Wal Punsoongneun (R) and Wassana Wunatho (L) of Thailand celebrate their Gold and Bronze medal places respectively in the Womens 100m Hurdles Final on day three of the 2011 Southeast Asian Games at Jakabaring Sports Complex on 13 November 2011 in Palembang, Sumatra, Indonesia (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News Palembang, Indonesia

SEA Games see records tumble; Thailand remains dominant

Twenty (20) National records, five (5) Games records, and two (2) Southeast Asian records were renewed during the five days (12 to 16 November, 2011) athletics competition in the 26th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games held at Jakabaring Sports Complex in the capital city of Southern Sumatera, Palembang  Indonesia.

The highlights were the crowning of the host’s Franklin Ramses Burumi and Serefi Anelies Unani as the sprint champions as well the outstanding performances by athletes from Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Malaysia.

Despite the absence of Southeast Asian top sprinter Suryo Agung Wibowo (four-time SEA Games gold medalist), the gold medal hunting for team Indonesia was not affected at all. In fact this country won 4 out of 6 gold medals in sprints (100-400m), the highest number of sprint gold medals ever achieved in a SEA Games.

Serafi Anelies Unani took the women’s 100m in a personal best (pb) time of 11.69s (+1.7), beating Thailand’s Nongnuch Sanrat in a photo finish after both had registered the same time. Vietnam’s Vu Thi Huong (pb 11.34), the champion of three editions (2005, 07, 09) only managed to finish third (11.73s) for bronze medal, but improved on her season best (sb) 12.21s set in Rehlingen.

Shortly after that, Franklin Ramses Burumi, who stands 5’3” tall,  left the blocks with a modest start but then blew away in the halfway to scorch the 100m dash in a time of 10.37s (+2.1).. Silver and bronze medals went to Singapore’s Gary Yeo Foo Ee (10.46s) and Thailand’s 2005 champion Wachara Sondee (10.47s).  

The winner vowed to run faster in the near future, “now I have what Suryo (Agung Wibowo) has, I want to break his record (10.17s), I think I can do that in one or two years” said Ramses Burumi.

Two days later (day 3), the 20-year-old from Papua province made a good run in the 200m heat to equal his best time of 21.27s, but to win the finals was not to be as easy because Thailand’s Suphachai Chimdee whose pb is 20.68s was in action. Nevertheless he fiercely dominated the field with a 20.93s (0.0m/s) run to win the gold and complete a sprint double, leaving Chimdee (21.05s) and his teammate Sompote Suwannarangsri (21.46s) in second and third positions respectively.

“I am so happy today as all my training and hard work has borne fruit. I am so proud about breaking my personal best, though I’m a bit disappointed not to break any record” he said after the 200m final. The SEA Games record for 200m is 20.69s, held by Thailand’s Reanchai Sriharwong since 1999.

He then teamed up in 4x100m relay with Fadlin, Farrel Octviandi ad Fernando Lumain to storm to another victory, defeating Singapore who had led almost the entire race. Both teams dead heated in 39.91s, separated by the photo-finish. With a triple gold, Franklin Ramses Burumi delivered more than Wibowo (two golds in 2009 & 2007 each) had done for Indonesia in a single SEA Games.

Thailand however could still smile after Laphassaporn Tawonchroen blazed to the finish in 23.65s, just 0.01 off her pb, which was fast enough to win the women’s 200m gold medal. Vietnam’s Le Ngoc Phuong who crossed the line in 24.01s, in second for silver, while Vu Thi Huong adds on another bronze (24.06s) in collection after finished in third.

Tenth Gold Medal for James Wong and Wassana Winatho

Singapore’s James Wong Tuck Yim maintained his supremacy in throwing events when he captured his tenth gold medal in SEA Games career. He has nine gold medals in the Discus Throw (all achieved in SEA Games editions of 1993 to 2011, except 2007) and one from the Hammer Throw (1997).

In this edition, James Wong delivered the first gold for Singapore after winning his pet event Discus Throw with a distance of 51.32m in his 4th attempt to upset  the silver medal winner (50.56m)  Hermanto of Indonesia who set the national record (52.95m) earlier in July. Thailand’s Kwanchai Numsomboon satisfied for bronze after a throw of 50.28m in the first attempt was never improved.

"It's my 10th gold medal and my last ever SEA Games but I just want the momentum to keep going so that everyone can chip in and do their best for Singapore," said James Wong, who have personal bests of 59.87m (Discus) and 58.20m (Hammer), both achieved in 1999.

Like James Wong, Thailand’s Wassana Winatho has 9 gold medals but also has 3 silver and 1 bronze, achieved over a span of 12 years (since 1999). The newly-crowned Asian Heptathlon champion (pb 5889 points) completed a stunning competition on the day 4 after scoring the highest mark in Heptathlon with 5448 points to clinch her tenth gold medal.  However, an attempt to add another gold in 400mh was prevented by the event specialist Noraseela Mohd Khalid of Malaysia. She clocked a sb of 58.97s.

Having won medals internationally in combined events, sprints, hurdles and relays, she is widely regarded as the most versatile athlete in Southeast Asia.

Torres soars to 6.71 leap

Marestella Torres of the Philippines produced a remarkable effort at 30 with an outstanding leap of 6.71m in women’s Long Jump to not only win the gold medal for the fourth time but eclipse her 6.68m Games record, National and Southeast Asian records. Indonesia’s Maria Natalia Londa bettered her national record by 21cm to win silver medal (6.47m), while Torres’s teammate Catherine Kay Santos bagged bronze (6.25m). “I’m happy with what I achieved today, I came close to retiring after the Asian Games but after a heart-to-heart talk with our president, I decided to continue, this is all a product of hard work” said Torres who made an opening jump of 6.65m.

Thailand’s Supanara Sukhasvasti Ayudhaya, 19, the defending champion who became the first ever Southeast Asian to leap over 8.00m in the Long Jump (8.04m, 2009), having won the World Youth title, as well as silver medal at 2011 Asian championships, has no pressure at all to produce a mark of 7.86m to retain his SEA Games title he won in 2009, defeating  jumpers of the Philippines, the former champion Henry Dagmil  (pb 7.99m) who with best jump of 7.78m, and Benigno Marayag (7.61m).

Grand double for Thailand in sprint hurdles

In 110mh, defending champion Jamras Rittidet blasted out of the blocks to lead the field with a comfortable margin. But over the last two hurdles, a sudden surge by the 2007 champion Rayzam Shah Wan Sofian of Malaysia threatened the lead but Rittidet technically better hurdling still bright him home ahead in 13.77s - new GR, NR, and 2nd fastest in SEA All-Time rankings. Six-time SEA Games champion Nur Herman Majid of Malaysia holds the 17-year-old Southeast Asian record of 13.73s.

Wan Sofian finished in second for silver medal in a lifetime best of 13.86, while Robani Hassan, the 2005 champion was third (14.14s).

Compatriot Wallapa Pansoongnuen made it a grand double for Thailand when she won the women’s 100mh in a time of 13.51s, defeating the favorite and defending champion Dedeh Erawati (13.53) in second place.

Vietnam gold-silver in women middle distances

At age of 25, Truong Thanh Hang has 5 gold medals from SEA Games, with the addition of three golds from the Asian championships. She has personal bests of 2:00.91 (800m) and 4:09.58 (1500m). On that basis, this Games was probably to serve only as a “cool down” to wrap up her busy season, before starting the build-up for the London Olympics.

Thanh Hang delivered two gold medals as expected in both 800m and 200m, clocking 2:02.65 and 4:15.75 respectively. The good times achieved following a closer battle from teammate Do Thi Thao who finished in second in both 800m (2:05.62) and 1500m (4:18.94). At the recent Asian championships she claimed the gold medal at 800m with 2:01.41, winning the silver in the 1500m (4:18.40).

Clean sweep continued in the long distances

Apart from the victories in sprints, Indonesian athletes gained a huge advantage as the host to sweep all the gold medals in long-distance events.

In this edition, the only women athlete who had a great chance to win three gold medals was Triyaningsih. Indonesian folks and fans called her “budak ajaib” (magic girl) in regards of her small frame but have a tremendous physical capability and willingness. On the day 1, she won the women’s 10,000m easily in 34:52.72, some way off to best mark 32:49.47 set in 2009 SEA Games. But it was a tactic to save enough energy in the tank as she returned to the track on day 3 to grab her second gold medal in 5000m (16:06.37).

“I’m really grateful that I was able to win the race. Hopefully, I also can do my best in the Marathon, said Triyaningsih after the 5000m.

The 24-year-old university student duly continued her magnificent victory in Marathon. With a lifetime best of 2:31:49s, faster than some of male marathoners in SEA Games, she finished the race in a time of 2:45:35, added another gold and completed the treble.

In addition, she previously won two gold medals (5000m & 10000m) at the 2007 SEA Games in Nakhon Ratchasima and then repeated the feat at the 2009 SEA Games in Laos. Thus she has 7 SEA Games gold medals from 3 SEA Games editions.

Teammate, Agus Pragogo continued to excel in the SEA Games after smashing the 5000m national record during the World Military Games in Rio de Janeiro in 14:02.12s. He firstly celebrated after successfully defending the men’s 10,000m gold medal which was won in 2009. As a pre-race favourite, he also stormed to the 5000m gold medal to become the first Indonesian in 22 years to clinch the 5000-10000m double in the SEA Games since Edwardus Nabunome in1989.

Teammate, Yahuza made the country proud as he snatched the gold medal in men’s Marathon (2:27:45s), and thus ensured a clean sweep of the gold medals for Indonesia in the long distances.

Consistency ensures victory

Duong Thi Viet Anh who achieved a height of 1.90m while en-route to equalling Vietnam’s Heptathlon national record  of 5350 points last August, denied the favourite and season leader (1.92m) Wanida Boonwan of Thailand in the women’s High Jump, with a 1.90m leap. Silver medal was awarded to Boonwan on count back after she and another Vietnamese Pham Thi Diem had the same height of 1.87 after both had failed to clear 1.90m.

Duong Thi Viet Anh later competed in heptathlon and won the bronze (5196 points) repeating the same height for the High Jump.

Recovered at the right time

After a long break after undergoing surgery (ankle), Malaysia high jumper Lee Hup Wei the 2007 Asian champion is still unbeatable among Southeast Asian athletes earning the men’s High Jump gold medal after clearing 2.15m. For a record, he registered 2.27m (pb) three times and had jumps of 2.24m or higher for at least 10 times throughout 2007 to 2010.

“It’s definitely not my best height but it’s my first competition since surgery. Hopefully, I’ll continue to stay fit an jump to greater heights,” he told Thestar.

Meanwhile, pre-race favourite Noraseela Mohd Khalid, the 400mh specialist (pb 56.02, 2006) had to reduce her “training” in September following an Achilles injury. However, with a solid six weeks stint in South Africa with her coach, Hennie Krival, and a season best of 57.98s set earlier in June (Nivelles), she fulfilled all her expectations with a stylish victory in 57.41s; her fourth gold medal out of five appearances in SEA Games.

Sweeter victories for some

Rene Herrera of the Philippines recorded 8:52.23 to win the men’s 3000m Steeplechase for the fifth consecutive time, beating host runner Al Quraisy in second place (8:55.91).  The women section was won by Indonesian Rini Budiarti in a time 10:00.58 (NR, GR, SeaR), who seized the gold medal from pre-race favourite Nguyen Thi Phuong of Vietnam (10:04.42). Interestingly, Budiarti became the only athlete in the running events to break all the aforementioned records.

In spite of pain due to a back injury, Malaysia’s Tan Song Hwa retained her gold medal in the women’s Hammer Throw which she won in the 2009 edition in Laos. She hurled the implement a distance of 55.15m. “I felt so relieved to get the gold medal, I may spend two months off to cure my injury”, says Song Hwa who set the national record 58.71m at Szombathely in June.

Thailand’s Chatchawal Polyiam topped-up his existing two gold medal collection from the SEA Games after winning the men’s Shot Put in 17.74m. The 31-year-old held off the challenge from Malaysia’s Adi Alufuddin who shattered his national record (17.38m) with 17.54m.

Meanwhile, Vietnam’s Vu Van Huyen confirmed himself as the most versatile male athlete of the games as he won the all-round event, Decathlon. The 2010 Asian games bronze medallist with 7755 points (pb) won the event after totaling 7223 points. Compatriot Nguyen Van Hue accompanied Van Huyen at podium as silver medal winner (6830 points).

Thailand’s Theerayut Philakong won his 4th gold medal in the SEA games by taking the men’s Triple Jump in 16.43m, defeating Vietnam’s Nguyen Van Hung in second (16.39m). Both recorded season bests. Philakong previously won the gold medals from 2009, 2007 and 2005.

Malaysia did not send their top male quarter-milers for the individual 400m races which raised questions among fans as the time winning of the event (47.53s,  Heru Astriyanto) was extremely beatable. The fans question was answered when the fresh Malaysian national quartet of S.Kannathasan, P.Yuvaaraj, Schzuan Rosely and Yunus Lasaleh won the men’s 4x400m in a time of 3:10.49s.

The domination of Thailand’s 4x100m men ended after clocking a poor 40.43s, beaten by Indonesia (39.91s), Singapore (39.91s), and Malaysia (40.41s). The women’s 400m and 4x400m Relays however still saw the Thais at the top of Southeast Asia.

On gold medal count, no one could argue about the long-time supremacy of Thailand that has produced huge numbers of prominent athletes during past 60 years. Having fielded a full-strength squad which competed at all 46 events (23 M and 23 W), the nation of the white elephant, confirmed its regional dominance after emerging as the overall champion with a haul of 14 (gold), 8 (silver), 10 (bronze). Indonesia came close in the runner-up with 13 - 12 - 11, while Vietnam in third with  9 - 10 - 14.

Top-3 results can be downloaded (pdf) from 'Related Content' below the photo to the right of this story.

The next edition of Southeast Asian Games will be held in Yangon, Myanmar in 2013.

Jad Adrian Washif for the IAAF