NAYPYITAW: It was middle distance runner Mohd Jironi Riduan’s last SEA Games and he wanted to end it with a bang.
But not even he could have dreamt of serving up a delightful golden double.
The 27-year-old Miri-born runner, who won the men’s 800m on Tuesday, bagged his second gold medal in the 1,500m on Thursday – via a photo-finish.
Vietnam’s Van Thai Duong looked home and dry with just five metres to go at the finishing line when Jironi made one mighty surge to catch him at the death.
Everyone at the Wunna Theikdi Main Stadium waited patiently for the results to be flashed on the electronic board.
When the results came on, Jironi and Thai Duong were credited with the same time – 3:58.02 – and it showed the Vietnamese as first and Jironi second.
Jironi could not believe his eyes.
“I am shocked and sad with the result … both of us clocked the same time and both of us should be awarded the gold. This is unfair,” said Jironi.
Malaysian athletics team manager Datuk Wan Hisham Wan Salleh requested the technical officer in charge of timing to review the results since both the runners clocked the same time.
An hour later, the officer decided to award Jironi and Thai Duong the gold.
Jironi, who is teacher-cum-coach at the Tunku Mahkota Ismail Sports School (SSTMI) in Johor, was relieved when told that he had won the gold.
“I am so happy that all my hard work in training paid off as this is my last SEA Games.
“I wanted to bid farewell the Games with two golds and I’m delighted to have achieved it.
“This is the best achievement in my athletics career,” said Jironi, who made his debut in the 2007 Korat SEA Games.
He won silvers in 800m and 1,500m in the 2009 Laos Games and was disqualified in the 1,500m race in Palembang two years ago for obstructing a runner.
Jironi said that he would now take a three-month break and concentrate on running marathons.
“I love long distance running and will feature in my first marathon – the KL Marathon – next year,” said Jironi.
Another Malaysian, M. Kesavan, who made his debut in the Games, clocked 4:05.90 to finish eighth in the 1,500m race.