SEA Games 2017

Sprinters hit new mark, Zhang halted

Zhang Guirong unleashes a throw yesterday. The national record-holder fell short of extending her winning run at the Games.
Zhang Guirong unleashes a throw yesterday. The national record-holder fell short of extending her winning run at the Games.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

On a day when a proud SEA Games winning streak for Singapore athletics ended, joy was to be found in the breaking of another record.

While Zhang Guirong's run of six consecutive shot-put golds was finally halted, the women's 4x100m team celebrated erasing the old national mark of 45.41 sec with a 44.96 effort yesterday at Bukit Jalil Stadium.

Zhang, who is Singapore's record holder with 18.57 metres, could only muster 13.42m in Kuala Lumpur and settled for fourth behind Indonesia's Eki Febri Ekawati (15.39m) and Thailand duo Areerat Intadis (15.33m) and Sawitri Thongchao (14.26m).

Zhang said: "I'm not very pleased with my performance today. When I saw them (her 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, saying: "I'll take a short break to recover, and then maybe I'll retire ... age-wise I'm already one of the older ones, and my fitness is nowhere that of the younger ones."

The China-born thrower also lamented her biggest regret would be "no young Singaporeans coming after me" to pass the baton to.

Still, there are other causes for Singapore athletics to rejoice. Although the women's 4x100m team finished fourth, behind Vietnam (43.88 sec, new Games record), Thailand (44.62 sec) and the Philippines (44.81 sec), they were ecstatic to lower the national mark set at the last Games.

The team of Wendy Enn, Dipna Lim-Prasad, Shanti Pereira and Nur Izlyn Zaini had never gone below 45.6 sec this season.

Lim-Prasad said: "It's really special because we have been gunning for it the whole year.

"We've always fallen short and our season's best is only 45.6 sec, so to go below 45 sec is epic. We surprised ourselves and are really excited. It's okay we didn't get a medal."

Pereira added: "It's pretty amazing, what we did today.

"We were all gunning for the national record and knew we had it in us, and we finally did it so it's some achievement."

Pole vaulter Rachel Yang brought more cheer by winning the bronze after clearing 3.6m.

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

But Yang conceded that adjusting to competing at night and coping with a headache took their toll as she fell short of her own national record of 3.91m. She said: "Today was not my best performance, but I did try my hardest."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 26, 2017, with the headline 'Sprinters hit new mark, Zhang halted'. Print Edition | Subscribe