SEA Games: Five breakout stars from Hanoi

(From left) Malaysia's Nor Sarah Adi, Philippines' Aleah Finnegan and Singapore's Teong Tzen Wei. PHOTOS: OLYMPIC COUNCIL OF MALAYSIA, REUTERS, JASON QUAH

HANOI - The 31st SEA Games ends on Monday (May 23) after two weeks of memorable sporting action. Here are five breakout athletes who have shone in Hanoi.

1. Nor Sarah Adi, 21, athletics (Malaysia)

She clinched a surprise gold in the women's pole vault with a 4m effort, also a personal best, ending her country's 11-year gold drought in the event. Malaysian Roslinda Samsu was their last champion, setting the Games record of 4.20m in 2011.

The debutante Sarah had come to Hanoi focusing on the 4x100m relay - in which she won a bronze with S. Komalam Shally, Zaidatul Husniah Zulkifli and Azreen Nabila Alias - but was given the opportunity to also compete in the pole vault.

She trained for the event for only a month and injured her back the week before the SEA Games but still prevailed.

2. Le Van Do, 20, football (Vietnam)

PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Vietnam's successful defence of their football title was largely built at the back - they did not concede a single goal in six matches.

The standout member of the Golden Star Warriors' defence though, was right-wing back Do, arguably been their player of the tournament.

He protected his flank with assurance and was also an attacking outlet. He scored in Vietnam's first game, a 3-0 win over Indonesia, which set the tone for the rest of the competition. A first national team cap surely beckons.

3. Aleah Finnegan, 19, gymnastics (Philippines)

PHOTO: REUTERS

The former US national gymnast won four medals on her Games debut in Hanoi. She led the team to a gold - the country's first in the event in over three decades - while she herself won the vault title.

She also picked up silvers in the balance beam and individual all-around categories.

Finnegan had previously retired from the sport last year after she was not selected for the American Olympic trials for Tokyo 2020 but decided to return and switched to her mother's nationality earlier this year so that she could compete in Vietnam.

4. Teong Tzen Wei, 24, swimming (Singapore)

ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

He is no stranger to winning gold but the Singaporean took it up a notch this time as he made his mark as South-east Asia's fastest freestyle swimmer.

He became the first man to go below 22 seconds in the 50m freestyle - winning gold in 21.93sec - at the Aquatic Sports Palace in a SEA Games and national record.

Only four men in Asia have swam faster and Teong's effort was faster than the 2018 Asian Games winning time of 22.11sec.

He also won the 50m butterfly in a Games record for good measure.

5. Puripol Boonson, 16, athletics (Thailand)

ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

He turned heads by completing a sprint treble in Vietnam, winning the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay titles, the latter two in new Games records.

Despite his tender age, Puripol already owns the Thai national record in the century sprint. He clocked 10.19sec at March's Thai National Championships, two months after he turned 16.

That time is just 0.04sec off the Under-18 world record and is aiming to become the first man from the region to go under 10 seconds.

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