SEA Games: 14-gold target as Thailand seek to rule athletics roost in KL

(From left) The Thai men’s 4x100m team, comprising of Sowan Ruttanapon, Promkaew Aphisit, Meenapra Jirapong and Sathoengram Jaran, celebrating after their win in the race at the Sports Hub in June 2015.
(From left) The Thai men’s 4x100m team, comprising of Sowan Ruttanapon, Promkaew Aphisit, Meenapra Jirapong and Sathoengram Jaran, celebrating after their win in the race at the Sports Hub in June 2015. PHOTO: ST FILE

(BERNAMA) - Thailand have set a target of 14 gold medals for their athletics contingent at the 29th Kuala Lumpur SEA Games (KL2017), which will be good enough to defend their title as the overall track and field champions during the biennial games.

Despite their confidence in retaining their crown in SEA Games athletics events, the team nevertheless have prepared themselves for stiff competition especially from hosts Malaysia and Indonesia for the coveted title.

"We have set a target of 14 gold medals for our athletics team for (the) Kuala Lumpur SEA Games. I think 14 gold medals are good enough for us to defend our overall champion title in the sport," Athletics Association of Thailand (AAT) deputy general secretary Major-General Supawanat Ariyamongkol told Bernama.

Thai Supawanat, who was a former top sprinter during the 1960s and 1970s, said the expected gold medal haul would come from several track and field events where the team would be represented by their Asian Games-level athletes.

The men's 4x100m relay looks to be one of their sure-fire gold medals, an event in which Thailand have traditionally been the winners, he added.

That relay team won the silver medal at the recent Asian Championships in India in early July and will be the clear favourites during SEA Games, Supawanat said, adding that the Thai quartet were only pipped at the finishing line by the Japanese team.

Despite the progress made by Malaysia's 4x100m team led by Khairul Hafiz Jantan, he rated Indonesia's relay team more highly and said they would be Thailand's main contender for the gold medal in the eagerly-anticipated clash during SEA Games.

Besides the men's 4x100m relay, Supawanat said that some of the other expected gold medals for Thailand in athletics would come from javelin (men's and women's), pole vault (men's), discus (women's), long jump (men's), heptathlon, decathlon and men's 110m hurdles.

For the men's 100m and 200m, the unpredictability of the race meant the runner who commits fewer mistakes will stand a better chance to bag the gold medal and win the title as the 'fastest man in South-east Asia', he said.

He expected Thailand's top sprinter and the double gold medal winner in the 100m and 200m at the 2013 Myanmar SEA Games, Jirapong Meenapra, to be in the mix for the gold medal in both events.

Thailand's 80-strong athletics team will be flying to Kuala Lumpur tomorrow.