SEA Games 2017

Malaysia ready to sign off on a high

Spectators holding signs with "100" printed on them after rhythmic gymnast Amy Kwan won Malaysia's 100th gold at these Games.
Spectators holding signs with "100" printed on them after rhythmic gymnast Amy Kwan won Malaysia's 100th gold at these Games.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Hosts confident of topping medal tally after equalling best haul amid strong local support

Malaysians rejoiced as their country hit the 111-gold mark for the 29th SEA Games yesterday, with many confident that the hosts will finish as the top-performing nation.

Rhythmic gymnast Amy Kwan delivered Malaysia's 100th gold of the biennial event after winning the ribbon apparatus final. As the announcement was made, an estimated 300 supporters at the Malaysia International Trade and Exhibition Centre (Mitec) held up A4-size gold-bordered signs with "100" printed on each sheet.

Student Atiya Junaidi, who was at the rhythmic gymnastics event, told The Straits Times: "I felt really proud of my country...

"It was amazing and I actually cried because it's such an extraordinary thing to witness and experience."

The 17-year-old believes it would be "embarrassing" if Malaysia do not top the medal tally when the Games conclude tomorrow.

"It's important because we are hosting the SEA Games this year, but even if we weren't first, I think it would be a good lesson so that we will work harder to finish top in the future," she said.

Stay-at-home mum Tuan Hui- Wearn, who was at Mitec with her nine-year-old daughter Marissa, agreed.


I felt really proud of my country... It was amazing and I actually cried because it's such an extraordinary thing to witness and experience.''

ATIYA JUNAIDI, a 17-year-old Malaysian student, reflecting on the hosts' success.

Said the 40-year-old: "It is important (that Malaysia tops the medal table) because we... have set a target."

Malaysia's Minister for Youth and Sports Khairy Jamaluddin had set a target of 111 golds for the hosts, which would equal their best haul achieved at the 2001 edition - the last time the Games were held in Kuala Lumpur.

He and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak have been high-profile cheerleaders throughout the last 21/2 weeks, standing out in their tiger-striped tracksuits.

But it has not been the presence of the political leaders - who are gearing up for a general election - that has drawn ordinary Malaysians to the venues but the athletes, especially the country's array of stars.

At yesterday's badminton semi-finals, the Axiata Arena in Bukit Jalil was filled with locals cheering their heroes on, even though world No. 5 Lee Chong Wei was absent.

Hall Three at Mitec, where weightlifting took place, was also packed with home supporters yesterday.

On Tuesday, about 50 people gathered in front of the big screen at Mitec's corridors to watch sprinter Khairul Hafiz Jantan compete in the 100m heats, and applauded when he finished.

When he ran in the final, he was backed by a 15,000-strong crowd - at 9.40pm.

Malaysia's footballers played their semi-final against Indonesia in front of a sell-out crowd at Shah Alam Stadium on Saturday, and there were reports of trouble at the stadium yesterday, when thousands could not get their hands on the 45,000 tickets allocated to Malaysian fans for tonight's final against Thailand.

Two weeks ago, faithful supporters returned day after day to the 1,000-seat Juara Stadium to cheer the Malaysian netballers on in their bid to wrest back the gold.

The semi-finals and final - which Malaysia won - were sold out weeks before.

Outside the confines of these venues, most Malaysians ST spoke to followed the Games keenly, either at the venues or on TV or other means.

Executives Atika Mustary and Farah Iyliani, who work in the Kuala Lumpur City Centre area, have not been able to attend any of the competitions but have been tracking the action - in particular cycling, netball and sepak takraw - online as well as via telecasts.

Farah, 26, said of their interest: "It's just that we are the hosts and this is our place."

A man who only wanted to be known as Ghoh, 40, checks the KL2017 mobile app for results every two hours.

He said: "It's been quite a while now since Malaysians can be proud of anything…

"There has been more negative news than positive news in the papers lately, and this is one big positive aspect to look at."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2017, with the headline 'Malaysia ready to sign off on a high'. Print Edition | Subscribe