SEA Games 2017

SEA Games: Surprise victory eclipses Eko warrior

Indonesia's four-time SEA Games weightlifting champion Eko Yuli Irawan (above) showing the strain of competing in the 62kg final yesterday. He finished with the silver medal after a total of 306kg, behind Vietnam's Trinh Van Vinh, who lifted 307kg.
Indonesia's four-time SEA Games weightlifting champion Eko Yuli Irawan (above) showing the strain of competing in the 62kg final yesterday. He finished with the silver medal after a total of 306kg, behind Vietnam's Trinh Van Vinh, who lifted 307kg.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Indonesia's four-time SEA Games weightlifting champion Eko Yuli Irawan (above) showing the strain of competing in the 62kg final yesterday. He finished with the silver medal after a total of 306kg, behind Vietnam's Trinh Van Vinh, who lifted 307kg.
Indonesia's four-time SEA Games weightlifting champion Eko Yuli Irawan showing the strain of competing in the 62kg final yesterday. He finished with the silver medal after a total of 306kg, behind Vietnam's Trinh Van Vinh, who lifted 307kg.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

KUALA LUMPUR • For 15 seconds, but what must have felt like an eternity, Trinh Van Vinh balanced 172kg of weights above his shoulders.

"Habis (finished), habis," muttered the Indonesian journalists, expecting the Vietnamese weightlifter to falter in yesterday's men's 62kg event and concede the gold medal to their compatriot Eko Yuli Irawan.

Few in the packed but silent hall would have disagreed. Eko was a three-time Olympic medallist, undefeated at the SEA Games and seeking his fifth Games title.

The 28-year-old Indonesian had set a Games record in the earlier snatch round (140kg) and his 166kg in the clean and jerk minutes before Vinh walked out was also a competition record.

The 22-year-old Vinh had other ideas. With one final deep breath, he heaved the bar over his head, paused to ensure it was deemed a successful lift by the judges before dropping it and pounding his chest in wild celebration.

His 307kg combined winning total was 1kg more than Eko, who took silver ahead of Myanmar's Myint Kyi (284kg). It was also a Games record for Vinh on his first appearance at the biennial meet.

Vinh, whose red-dyed hair matched his fiery spirit, said: "I just tried and tried, never stopped believing. Eko is a great champion but when he did not complete his third lift (for 169kg), I knew I had a chance. I'm much better in the clean and jerk than snatch."

He was nevertheless entering uncharted territory. His previous clean and jerk personal best was 167kg in a total of 299kg, both set at April's Asian Weightlifting Championships in Turkmenistan.

Vinh said: "There was no pressure. I had the silver so why not try and go for gold."

Despite seeing his streak end in such a dramatic fashion, Eko remained positive and said he would train even harder ahead of next year's Asian Games in Indonesia.

He had won a silver medal at last year's Rio Olympics with a 312kg (142kg snatch, 170kg clean and jerk) total. Eko was victorious at the 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2013 SEA Games. The sport did not feature two years ago in Singapore.

He said: "He (Vinh) was stronger and his technique was better."

His opponent had only one thing on his mind after receiving the gold medal. Vinh said: "I just want to go to my room, close the door and sleep for as much as I can."

It had, one might say, been the longest day of his life.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2017, with the headline 'Surprise victory eclipses Eko warrior'. Print Edition | Subscribe