SEA Games: Shock as six-time defending champion Zhang Guirong falls short in shot put

Zhang Guirong could muster only 13.42m, well short of her record throw of 18.57m.
Zhang Guirong could muster only 13.42m, well short of her record throw of 18.57m. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - Singapore is considered a minnow in track and field, rarely featuring in the winner's circle.

But it has dominated the women's shot put at the SEA Games for over 10 years thanks to the feats of Zhang Guirong.

However, that proud streak came to an end at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium last night when the six-time champion not only failed to retain her title, but also fell shy of a podium place.

She could only muster a best effort of 13.42 metres to finish in fourth - well below her national record of 18.57m, set at the 2005 Asian Championships in Incheon, South Korea.

The competition was won by Indonesia's Eki Febri Ekawati, who came flying out of the blocks with a throw of 15.39m, a distance which eventually secured her the gold.

Thailand's Areerat Intadis (15.33m) took silver with compatriot Sawitri Thongchao (14.26m) rounding up with the bronze medal.

Said Zhang: "I'm not very pleased with my performance today.

"I knew that my competitors from Thailand and Indonesia were strong.

"But when I saw them (my competitors) do well, it really affected my own composure and rhythm."

The 39-year-old, who is competing in her eighth SEA Games, also hinted that it might be her last.

"I'll take a short break to recover, and then maybe I'll retire... age-wise, I'm already one of the older ones at the competitions, and my fitness is nowhere that of the younger ones."

The China-born thrower, who was naturalised under the Foreign Sports Talent Scheme, added that if she does hang up her spikes, her biggest regret would be that there are "no young Singaporeans coming after me" to pass on the baton.

"Although I'm not happy with the result, I can accept it. From 2003 to now, it's not been easy to keep competing," she said.

"I just hope that those who supported me can understand that I've tried my best. No matter the result, I will face it positively."

There was however something for Singaporeans to cheer about as Rachel Yang claimed the pole vault bronze with a height of 3.6m.

However, it was considerably lower than the national record of 3.91m which she had set at the Thailand Open in June.

She said: "Today was not my best performance but I did try my hardest.

"I've been having a headache since (the) afternoon, and this is the first time I'm competing at night so the whole routine is very new to me.

"I tried to rest in the afternoon but I just couldn't get to sleep so I was feeling a bit lethargic when I was at the competition ground.

"Moving forward, that's maybe something I'll look into."

Defending champion Chayanisa Chomchuendee of Thailand retained the gold (4.1m) while Malaysia's Chuah Yu Tian took the silver (3.8m).