SINGAPORE - He was not competing in his pet event, which made hurdler Marc Brian Louis' feat at the Asian Youth Athletic Championships all the more remarkable.
The 16-year-old ITE College Central student became Singapore's first gold medallist when he clocked 55.09 seconds to win the boys' 400m hurdles in the third edition of the championships at the Tseung Kwan O Sports Ground in Hong Kong on Sunday (March 18).
He finished ahead of Henry Chun Wai Fung (55.26sec) from the host country, and Qatar's Mohd E. B. Fahad Al-Abdulla (55.28sec).
"I wasn't expecting a medal because I don't focus my training on the 400m hurdles," Marc told The Straits Times. "I don't really work on the endurance needed for it."
His pet event is the 110m hurdles, where he set a national boys' Under-18 record of 13.74sec en route to a bronze medal on Friday.
With two wins in the 400m hurdles - he also won gold at the South-east Asian Youth Championships in the Philippines two weeks ago - Marc said he would discuss with his coach, Benber Dayao Yu, if he should focus more on the long-distance event.
"I feel very happy with the medal because it means I am the top (400m youth hurdler) in Asia," he added. "It hasn't really sunk in yet."
Team manager Poh Seng Song, who is Singapore Athletics' (SA) vice-president (finance and partnership) said the key to Marc's win was good pacing.
"He was in Lane One, which is not an easy lane (because it is too "tight" for runners on the curve), but he ran his own race and his pacing was very good," said Poh, a former national sprinter. "He pushed and kicked when it mattered most, and did not let the pressure or his competitors get to him."
The other Singaporean to medal at the biennial Asian Youth Championships was sprinter Kugapriya Chandran, who won a bronze medal in the girls' 200m race in the inaugural edition in Doha, Qatar in 2015. The competition was held in Bangkok in 2017.
This year's edition saw 436 athletes from 31 countries take part, with 40 gold medals on offer.
China topped the medal standings with 12 gold, 11 silver and eight bronze medals, followed by India (8-9-9) and Japan (6-8-6).
Singapore finished ninth with the two medals won by Marc, although five other athletes recorded personal bests.
They were girls' triple jumpers Ann Lee Shyann Wai (11.70 metres) and Tan Tse Teng (11.53m), girl's 400m hurdler Tyeisha Rene Misson Khoo (67.10sec) and boys' 800m runner Brandon Norton (1min 59.74sec). Pole vaulter Christy Robyn Su-Ann equalled her personal best of 3.05m.
Singapore's 20-strong contingent at the Asian Youth Championships was the joint-seventh largest alongside Iran.
Said SA president Tang Weng Fei: "I said when I came back (for a third stint as president last October) that my emphasis was to strengthen the youth team.
"It was an intentional move to send a bigger team to the SEA Youth and Asian Youth Championships. These (athletes) will form the base of the pyramid (working) towards the pathway of excellence."