The athletics competitions of the 29th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games concluded at the National Stadium, Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur on Saturday (26).
Vietnam dethroned 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 9-13-11 haul, just ahead of host country Malaysia that ended their campaign with best the accomplishment since 1999 (8-8-9).
Triple gold performances by Nguyen Thi Huyen and Le Tu Chinh were among the stellar shows brought by the Vietnamese athletes apart from the impressive results in triple jump. Seventeen athletes successfully defended their individual titles from last edition. Ten new games records were set or equalled including two in the relays along with one SEA regional record.
New sprint sensations rise
In the recent Asian Championships, Khairul Hafiz Jantan was disqualified from the final after having run 10.24 in pouring rain during his semifinals, a performancs that was faster than the times recorded in the final. He was seen as the man to beat here as he won the heats easily in 10.34 (+0.3 m/s), ahead of Thailand’s former champion Jirapong Meenapra (10.46). The final’s night saw the Malaysian youngster takes the men’s 100m gold from the Philippine’s defending champion Eric Cray, 10.38 to 10.43.
“The crowd was amazing and I'm very happy to have won gold for my country," said the 19-year-old who clocked 10.18 in 2016 to become the fastest 18-year-old sprinter in the world that year.
Cray, who lives in Texas, gave everything over the closing stages to edge Thailand’s Kritsada Namsuwan. Both were clocked at 10.43. 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 in the 400m hurdles by just 0.02 in 50.03.
Hafiz’s ambition of completing 100/200 double seems to be affected by a hamstring problem 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 20.84. A day later, 21-year-old Beram earned his second gold, winning the 400m in 46.39 to complete the 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, winning the 100m in 11.56 and 200m in 23.32, beating Malaysia’s Zaidatul Husniah Zulkifli who was second in both events in 11.74 and 23.64, 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 43.88, a Games record.
Vietnamese women rules track events
Female athletes were the key success for Vietnam as they bagged 13 gold, 10 of those 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, who stands at 5’2”, was well ahead of her competitors when she won the 400m hurdles by nearly 4.5 seconds in 56.06, a personal best and Games record.
She went on to win the 400m handily in 52.48 before claiming a third gold in the 4x400m relay (3:33.40).
The country of 92 million also produced some impressive marks in other events. Bui Thi Thu Thao leaped 6.68m (+0.2) to win the long jump while Vu Thi Men reached 14.15m (+0.1) to take the triple jump, both national records. Likewise, Nguyen Thi Oanh takes the victories in the 1500m (4:20.51) and 5000m (17:23.20), while Tran Thi Yen Hoa won the 100m hurdles in 13.40s (+0.7).
More home squad success
The persistent discus thrower Irfan Shamsuddin, who in June recorded a 62.55m PB, is still nursing a worrisome ankle injury and back pain. But the Asian Championships silver medallist successfully defended his title with a 58.36m effort.
A decade after his last victory, Rayzam Shah Wan Sofian regained the Games 110m hurdles title in 13.83 9-0.1), defeating Thailand’s four-time SEA Games champion Jamras Rittidet (14.10).
Hakimi Ismail managed to recover at the right time from a series of setbacks to defend his triple jump title, setting a 16.77m (+0.2) Games record, bettering his PB and SEA regional record by one centimetre.
The men’s high jump saw a charming rivalry between Malaysian competitors. With a PB of 2.30m, Nauraj Singh, and Olympic and world championship representative, took his third consecutive gold after a first attempt clearance of 2.24m to beat teammate Lee Hup Wei on countback.
Elsewhere, Indonesia’s Triyaningsih achieved an eleventh SEA Games gold to her name as she won the women’s 10,000m in 36:39.37. Olympian May Joy Tabal of the Philippines won the women’s marathon in 2:48:26 despite a contentious lead up to SEA Games.
Vietnam’s Duong Van Thai earned his sixth SEA Games gold after taking the men’s 800m (1:48.97) and 1500m (3:51.44) double. Thailand team won the men’s 4x100m relay in 38.90, a Games record, and retained the 4x400m title in 3:07.25.
The Philippine capital Manila will host the next edition of SEA Games in 2019.
Jad Adrian Washif for the IAAF