Rachel Yang raises bar with 3.9m leap

Pole vaulter joins women's 4x400m squad in setting new national records

AS SINGAPORE pole vaulter Rachel Yang began her run for her second attempt at clearing 3.90m yesterday, the support from a 8,572-strong crowd at the National Stadium steadily grew in volume, willing her to leap to a new national record.

And when she vaulted cleanly over the bar, an eruption of cheers greeted her as she fell onto the mattress, leapt up jubilantly and punched her fists in the air.

The result eclipsed the 33-year-old's previous national record of 3.83m, set at the Malaysian Open in March.

It was also good enough for a silver, Singapore's first-ever women's pole vault medal.

Thailand's defending champion Chayanisa Chomchuendee cleared 4.10m for the gold while Riezel Buenaventura of the Philippines was third with 3.65m.

Yang said: "This is the first time I've won a medal in three SEA Games. I really need to thank the home crowd for their support.

"I came in very nervous and was quite scared... but I told myself I need to build on the confidence of the last few months, so I had to throw away all the negative thoughts and just focus on the jump."

However, she was "a bit disappointed" with not being able to hit the 4m mark, failing in all three attempts yesterday.

"I was a bit overwhelmed today so I need to go back and review what happened," she said.

"I want to break the 4m mark within the next few months."

Yesterday's athletics competition saw the rewriting of another national record - for the women's 4x400m.

The Singapore team, represented by Shanti Pereira, Dipna Lim-Prasad, Goh Chui Ling and T. Piriyah, clocked 3min 40.58sec in the final.

While they only finished fourth, they shattered the 41-year-old national record that was set by Glory Barnabas, Maimoon Azian, Lee Tai Jong and Chee Swee Lee at the Asian Games in Teheran in 1974.

Vietnam took the gold in a new Games record of 3:31.46, finishing ahead of Thailand (3:36.82) and Malaysia (3:39.10).

Anchor runner Pereira had almost caught up with the Malaysian runner at the halfway mark of the final lap but the gap was ultimately too much for her to make up.

The four runners were overcome with emotion at breaking the record, squealing with excitement after the race.

Lim-Prasad added: "We've been gunning for it for a long time. We found out when my husband, Seng Song, shouted across the stands that we broke it, and we just started screaming.

"It was quite an emotional moment because we've been gunning for it for at least two years, so breaking it is a milestone for us."

She also said that she felt the team could go even faster and eclipse their own record: "We have a young team, and we've been improving non-stop, so hopefully we can do so."

Shanti, who had won the gold in the 200m on Wednesday, was not bothered about missing out on a medal this time. She said: "I still feel great because we still broke the national record, which is what we wanted to do."

Lim-Prasad, who bagged a silver in the 400m hurdles on Wednesday, echoed her thoughts.

She said: "The medal is a bonus, the record is the most meaningful thing to us.

"If we had gotten a medal but no record, it wouldn't have been as meaningful."

isaacneo@sph.com.sg

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