Asean Para Games: Surprise bronze for Vanen

Kalai Vanen is pumped up after lifting 140kg in his first attempt, which was enough to give the Singaporean powerlifter the bronze in the men's 97kg category.
Kalai Vanen is pumped up after lifting 140kg in his first attempt, which was enough to give the Singaporean powerlifter the bronze in the men's 97kg category.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

Among his four rivals yesterday were an Asean Para Games (APG) record-holder, an Asian Para Games bronze medallist and the eighth-ranked para-powerlifter in the world.

Singapore's Kalai Vanen, on the other hand, was an APG debutant who had picked up the sport only 10 months ago.

Yet, the 56-year-old defied the odds to claim a bronze in the men's 97kg class at Marina Bay Sands' Hall B.

Vanen surprised even himself by lifting 140kg, thereby becoming the Republic's first powerlifting medallist at the APG.

He said: "I was a bit surprised and shocked because (to win a medal) was not my aim. I feel really excited to win Singapore's first medal in powerlifting and tears came to my eyes when I saw my country's flag go up."

To some, his win involved a big dose of good fortune, as Indonesia's Hero Pariyono, who won a bronze in the 107kg class at last year's Asian Para Games, failed in all his three attempts, thus handing the bronze to Vanen.

Said Vanen: "It doesn't matter if I'm lifting 130kg or he's lifting 150kg. "At the end of the day, if you can execute the move beautifully, that's the winner."

The Singaporean wants to qualify for next year's Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro - which means he must lift a minimum 165kg.

He said: "I will continue to train hard and this is just a stepping stone to getting to the Paralympics."

Gold went to Malaysia's Jong Yee Khie, who broke his own APG record with a lift of 200kg. Prakit Tongsang of Thailand lifted 160kg to take the silver.

Two other powerlifting Games records were broken yesterday. In the women's 61kg, Thailand's Hat Motnok lifted 74kg while, in the women's 79kg class, Indonesia's Siti Mahmudah managed 115kg.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 09, 2015, with the headline 'Surprise bronze for Vanen'. Print Edition | Subscribe