SEA Games 2017

SEA Games: National record is more important than medal: Dipna Lim-Prasad

Dipna Lim-Prasad exploding out of the blocks on her way to the silver medal in the 400m yesterday. Her time of 54.18sec bettered Chee Swee Lee's national mark of 55.08sec, set at the 1974 Asian Games in Iran.
Dipna Lim-Prasad exploding out of the blocks on her way to the silver medal in the 400m yesterday. Her time of 54.18sec bettered Chee Swee Lee's national mark of 55.08sec, set at the 1974 Asian Games in Iran.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Each runner in last night's SEA Games women's 400m event was racing against five other competitors, but Dipna Lim-Prasad had two more - herself, and the 43-year-old national record that she had been trying to break all year.

The 26-year-old Singaporean may have been the second runner to cross the finish line at Bukit Jalil National Stadium, but her 54.18-second effort was enough to defeat her latter two "competitors" as it was a new personal best and national record.

The previous national mark of 55.08sec, held by Chee Swee Lee, was set at the 1974 Asian Games in Iran and was the oldest standing women's national athletics record.

Said a delighted Lim-Prasad, who two months ago posted 55.10sec en route to winning the 400m at the Thailand Open: "I've been trying (to break the national record) this whole year and at the Thailand Open I missed it by 0.02sec and it was so close."

She had been confident of setting a new national mark at last month's Malaysia Open, but her plans were derailed by a virus which led to her pulling out of the meet. "That was very disappointing," she said.

Still, the significance of her achievement last night took some time to sink in. Even as her husband, former national sprinter Poh Seng Song, shouted to her from the stands that she had set a new national mark, Lim-Prasad did not register his words immediately.

Grinning, she added: "It was 54.18sec, which is massive, so I'm really happy."

Her medal was Singapore's first in the 400m at the Games since 1975 when Chee won the title and Cheah Kim Teck took the men's silver.

Weighing the significance of both medal and timing, Lim-Prasad said: "For sure the medal made it more special, but the timing is the most objective thing.

"If I ran a really slow time and still won silver, it wouldn't mean as much … This one I know it's by merit and it's a solid time, so it's like confirmation that I'm getting better as an athlete."

And Lim-Prasad, who retained her 400m hurdles silver on Tuesday, aims to keep getting better.

"Because I'm so close to 54sec flat, I guess (I hope) to go under 54sec, and then 53sec … and the next milestone is 52sec and what's after that is the Olympic qualifying standard, so hopefully I'm getting there slowly but surely - we'll see," she said.

"Hopefully my coach (Portuguese Luis Cunha) stays in Singapore. His contract is ending at the end of this year and under Luis I've improved so much not just in running but also in mindset, so I hope he stays."

High jumper Michelle Sng was also in action yesterday, but results will be confirmed only today owing to a dispute over the results. The protest, which was lodged by Singapore Athletics officials, was not resolved by press time. Sng had posted an effort of 1.83m and was in contention for the gold medal.

Athletics team manager Yip Renkai explained: "After both athletes (Vietnam's Duong Thi Viet Anh and Sng) were told they would be awarded joint golds, they were then called back to do a jump-off after they had cooled down and the poles were taken down to indicate the end of competition.

"We felt that it put both athletes at a disadvantaged position, because they had already cooled off after being told that the competition was over."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 25, 2017, with the headline 'National record is more important than medal: Dipna'. Print Edition | Subscribe