Postcard from Hanoi: It's not just the athletes who have a need for speed

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ST correspondents rushing at the SEA games in Hanoi.

HANOI - For a brief second as I stood in the middle of the road outside the Thien Truong Stadium in Nam Dinh, I feared the worst.

Two policemen had their hands on my sweat-soaked shirt. I had just sprinted half the length of the stadium to get to the mixed zone - a place where media get to speak to the athlete - which in this case was on the road.

"Stop," one of the officers barked. It was just 40 seconds into my post-match interview with Saifullah Akbar, who moments earlier scored the winning goal for the Singapore football team in their 1-0 win over Cambodia.

The authorities had closed off the road for the team bus and I was delaying the reopening for other vehicles to pass through. And as the officer signalled for the interview to end immediately, I put forward one last question.

The same rush happened when I spoke to Shah Shahiran after his wonder goal against Malaysia.

As a reporter, I've had minders step in during interviews but not a cop. Not one but two. Reluctantly, I cut short my interview. I had to make do with less than a minute's worth of quotes.

Here in Hanoi, at my first overseas-based Games, one thing is clear: There is no stopping. There is no waiting. Keep moving.

Every hour is rush hour. Everything just moves quicker.

Numbers on the medal table are changing constantly. A first medal, a first silver and then the first gold. One gold becomes two and the third follows quickly.

That means there is no time to dwell on moments of glory.

The euphoria of witnessing silat exponent Iqbal Abdul Rahman win Team Singapore's first gold medal had barely sunk in and I was already in a car on the way to the next venue, furiously writing my story while on a 2½-hour ride to my next assignment.

There is no stopping. But there is plenty of running.

Here, a last-minute change in scheduling means that meals are cut short and it's time to get moving to the venue. On one occasion, to beat the traffic, I ditched the car and hopped on a bike-hailing service. In my first major Games, like athletes, I'm adapting.

Life at a major Games just seems more hectic. A star is born one minute and a past champion tastes glory again in another. Fencer Elle Koh, 14, has just been introduced to the world as a SEA Games champion but that is already yesterday's story. Today, sprint queen Shanti Pereira is a history maker again. Tomorrow it'll be another name in the headlines.

And in the need for speed, old instincts kick in for experienced reporters.

ST reporter Deepanraj Ganesan hastily interviewing footballer Shah Shahiran before being shooed away. ST PHOTO: DEEPANRAJ GANESAN

My colleague Sazali Abdul Aziz, who has been to several major Games including the Olympics, had a split-second decision to make on Saturday (May 14) when Pereira reached the finish line first in the women's 200m final at the My Dinh Stadium.

File a quick story on Pereira's unexpected triumph and national record or whip out his smartphone to film her reaction to the win.

When she saw her record-setting time on the clock at the finish line - which also confirmed her gold medal - Pereira sank to the floor and began bawling her eyes out on the track.

And due to his quick reaction, Sazali's video has since garnered at least 10,000 views and counting on The Straits Times' social media platforms.

These Games are an education in speed, even for reporters. The news is a race in itself and there is no stopping until, of course, you feel the pressure of a policeman's hand on your sweaty shoulders.

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