SEA Games: Calvin Quek is 1st S'pore man to win 400m hurdles medal since 1969

Calvin Quek set a new national mark of 51.19 seconds to finish behind winner Eric Cray of the Philippines. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

HANOI - Chest heaving, Calvin Quek sat at the finish line at the My Dinh Stadium on Tuesday (May 17), staring up at the venue’s giant screen watching a replay of the SEA Games’ 400m hurdles race.

He had run so hard that he did not even know how well he did in the race. Starting from the outermost lane did not help either.

Eventually, the 26-year-old found out that his time of 51.19 seconds was good enough to break his own national record and win a bronze – Singapore’s first medal in the event since 1969, when A. Sadayappan also won bronze in Rangoon, now known as Yangon.

Eric Cray of the Philippines took the gold in 50.41sec while Vietnam’s Quach Cong Lich claimed the silver in 50.82sec.

On his achievement, Quek said: “It’s a huge honour but I also really hope that this can inspire younger athletes to take up (the 400m hurdles) because sadly right now, the event is lacking depth.”

The Nanyang Technological University undergraduate’s breakthrough triumph in Hanoi is remarkable given his personal best was 53.65sec when he started working with current coach Luis Cunha last August.

And even though he rewrote the national record for the first time with a 51.73sec effort just six months into working with the Portuguese, the self-described “late bloomer” still required an appeal to earn the nod for Hanoi as the qualifying mark was 51.60sec.

Noting that Quek had slashed his personal best by almost 2.5sec in just nine months, Cunha gave full credit to his athlete, saying: “We had a plan, and he executed it perfectly.”

Quek reflected: “In the end, my lane did not really matter because I knew I needed to focus on my own race. So maybe running blind was better for me.”

His podium finish yesterday means that Singapore’s athletes have picked up one gold, two silver and four bronze medals heading into the penultimate day of track and field action at the SEA Games.

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