Thailand dominated the athletics events at the 27th edition of the South East Asian (SEA) Games, which ended on Thursday (19) after five days of competition in the city of Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar.
There were no Asian records, but there were a plethora of other high-class marks, including eight Games records, six SEA records, five SEA junior records and 35 national records.
The man who took home the biggest haul of medals was Thai sprinter Jirapong Meenapra. The-20-year-old from Suratthani arrived at the Games as a SEA leader in the 100m and 200m.
Before focusing on his individual events, he ran a crucial third leg in the 4x100m relay. With some excellent baton exchanges, Thailand secured the gold medal in 39.75. Singapore finished a very close second in 39.79.
In the 100m final, Meenapra had to work hard after a sluggish start but he quickly recovered to win in 10.48 (0.7m/s), ahead of Indonesia’s Iswandi, who took the silver in 10.51.
"I was in lane five and was sandwiched by Indonesian runners in lane four and lane six, and that made me feel uncomfortable but I managed to win," said Meenapra, who celebrated the victory by imitating Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt's trademark 'to di world' pose.
He later added the 200m title, winning comfortably in 21.29 into a slight breeze.
Thailand’s Wassanee Winatho successfully defended her Asian heptathlon title in July, and added her fifth consecutive SEA Games gold medal when she tallied 5556 points over the first two days of the athletics events.
Winatho is also an accomplished hurdler but a day later, on Tuesday, she had to work hard to defend her 400m hurdles title in a neck-and-neck battle with Vietnam’s Quach Thi Lan, but won in 58.85 with her rival second in 58.93.
The multi-talented Thai athlete now has a total of 13 SEA Games gold medals to her name. Only Myanmar’s Jennifer Tin Lay and the Philippine’s Elma Muros-Posadas have more with 15 each.
Vietnam’s Asian Games and Asian Championships medallist Vu Thi Huong ruled the women’s sprints once more.
In the 100m, she pulled away from the field from the halfway point before winning comfortably in 11.59 (-0.2m/s) and then won the 200m in 23.55 (0.1m/s).
Myanmar’s Phyu War Thet gave the hosts plenty to cheer by winning the women's 5000m in a national record of 16:06.01 while the diminutive Indonesian runner Triyaningsih, who is only 1.50m tall, took the 10,000m gold medal in 32:34.68, reversing the placings with the local runner after taking the 5000m silver.
Londa leaps to jump double
In the field events, the best performance came in the women’s triple jump, which saw three women go over 14 metres.
Indonesia’s 23-year-old Maria Natalia Londa broke her own national record when she bounded out to 14.17m for the gold medal. In an exciting contest, Thailand’s Two-time SEA Games champion Thitima Muangjan had to settle for the silver medal with 14.16m while Vietnam’s defending champion Tran Hue Hoa took the bronze with 14.12m.
Londa then went on to win the long jump as well with an effort of 6.39m.
The men’s triple jump was equally impressive.
Malaysia’s Muhammad Hakimi Ismail took the lead with a national record of 16.44m on his fourth attempt before Vietnam’s Nguyen Van Hung, whose previous best was 16.41m, replied with an outstanding effort of 16.67m to better the Games record and his own national record.
After being spurred on by the home crowd, Myanmar’s Saw Mar Lar Nwe crossed the finish line as the champion of the women’s 20km race walk, clocking a time of 1:35:03 to obliterate her national record by almost seven minutes, as well as setting a Games record.
Four other Thai athletes had games to remember, setting both Games and national records.
Jamras Rittidet successfully defended his 110m hurdles title for the third consecutive time and improved his own Games record and national record by 0.05 to 13.72 (-0.3m/s).
His compatriot Peerachet Jantra followed suit in the javelin with an effort of 76.30m and he was copied by another Thai thrower, Tantipong Phetchaiya, who sent the hammer out to 62.23m.
In the women’s discus, Thailand’s Subenrat Insaeng outclassed her rivals by more than 14 metres when recording a Games and national record with her third-round throw of 56.77m.
Indonesia’s Dedeh Erawati, now 34, is still going strong in the women’s 100m hurdles. She regained her title after running 13.53 (0.3m/s).
Vietnam’s Nguyen Van Lai captured gold medals in the men’s 5000m and 10,000m, with national records of 14:19.35 and 29:44.82 respectively.
The Philippine’s Henry Dagmil, who has a best of 7.99m, took home his third long jump title with a fine leap of 7.80m, despite jumping against a strong headwind of -2.1m/s.
Thailand's athletics contingent was expecting 14 gold medals but they proudly left Myanmar with a haul of 17 gold, 13 silver and nine bronze. Following Thailand on the medals table was Vietnam with 10 gold, 11 silver and 12 bronze medals.
The next SEA Games will be held in Singapore in June 2015.
Jad Adrian Washif for the IAAF