Asean Schools Games: Joseph lands gold on picture-perfect day

Singaporean Joseph Zhao in action during the Asean Schools Games long jump final. He won gold with a 6.70m effort.
Singaporean Joseph Zhao in action during the Asean Schools Games long jump final. He won gold with a 6.70m effort.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Even before Joseph Zhao leapt to gold-medal glory yesterday, the Singaporean was already a hit at the 8th Asean Schools Games (ASG).

The 18-year-old Hwa Chong Institution student has had a bevy of giggly female Vietnamese athletes trailing in his wake since Friday's opening ceremony.

He has acceded to numerous requests for photos, and he did his image no harm when he claimed the long jump gold with a 6.70m effort.

Laughing nervously as he spoke to The Straits Times at Chiang Mai's 700th Anniversary Stadium, a flustered Joseph said: "I don't know what to say... but I made new friends with the jumpers from the other countries.

"I also met some jumpers from last year's ASG in Brunei, so it was good to see them again."

Yesterday's gold medal made up for Monday's disappointment, when he failed to land a medal in the triple jump - his pet event.

"This long jump gold was not expected at all, because I saw the Malaysian jumpers during the triple jump and I knew they were very strong jumpers," he said.

"I knew it was going to be a tough fight for me, so I really just focused on my technique during the run-up by using every single muscle I've been trained to use."

Apart from his gold, the Republic's track and field athletes also clinched three bronzes on the last day of the competition.

Jasmin Phua and Daphne Kwok were third in the discus and triple jump respectively, while the quartet of Abigail Tan, Pan Xin-Min, Amirah Aljunied and Celeste Goh claimed the 4x400m bronze.

The athletics team finished their campaign with two golds, four silvers and six bronzes - bettering last year's haul of just one bronze.

Team manager Syed Abdul Malik was "delightfully surprised" by this year's results, saying: "We came with just moderate expectations that the athletes would post their personal bests.

"We didn't put any pressure on them as we wanted them to focus on their individual events.

"So I think they've surpassed our expectations, but the highlight of this whole meet is the fact that the whole team really inspired one another to win the medals."

The ASG will move to Singapore next year and Malik, 48, knows that all eyes will be on the hosts.

"As hosts next year, we're going to be in the media limelight with a lot of expectations on us," he said. "So I'm glad we've laid the foundation for a strong team that can do us proud next year as hosts."

Singapore's basketball boys bagged a silver medal, but ended their campaign on a low note when they lost 67-72 to Laos in their last round-robin match.

The Singapore team had led 49-38 in the third quarter, but a slew of missed free throws and gutsy play by their opponents saw Laos wrest the lead and the match.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 28, 2016, with the headline 'Joseph lands gold on picture-perfect day'. Print Edition | Subscribe