NAYPYITAW: Mohd Jironi Riduan buried the ghost of Palembang to win an unexpected gold in the men’s 800m at the Wunna Theikdi Main Stadium here on Tuesday.
The Miri-born athlete was disqualified in Palembang two years ago for obstructing an athlete during the 1,500m final.
He did not even qualify on merit for the 800m event for the Myanmar SEA Games and furthermore it is not even his preferred event.
But he managed to overtake defending champion Van Thai Duong of Vietnam in the last 20 metres to win in 1:50.98.
Mervin Guatre of the Philippines clocked 1:51.51 to bag the silver while Thai Duong settled for the bronze in 1:51.62.
The last Malaysian to win the 800m gold medal at the SEA Games was R. Nandakumar in 1997 in Jakarta.
It was Jironi’s first gold medal in four editions of the Games. He made his debut in Korat in 2007 where he won the bronze in the 1,500m event.
In Laos in 2009, he won silvers in the 800m and 1,500m but finished empty-handed in Palembang.
The 27-year-old Jironi, who has a personal best of 1:50.21 in the 800m, said that being disqualified in Palembang was a bitter experience.
“Furthermore, I have been struggling the whole year to qualify for the SEA Games and never thought of winning the 800m event, which is not even my pet event.
“But I won it because I ran a tactical race. I just stayed close to the pacer (Thai Duong) before making a dash in the last 200 metres to win the gold,” said Jironi, who is a school teacher cum coach at the Tunku Mahkota Ismail Sports School (SSTMI) in Johor.
Jironi said that he would go all out to win the 1,500m scheduled for tomorrow.
“I am all fired up to deliver the second gold for Malaysia after winning my first gold in Naypyitaw,” said Jironi, who has a personal best of 3:47.34.
Another Malaysian M. Kesavan, who made his debut in the Games, clocked a personal best of 1:52.25 to finish fifth in the 800m.
However, the 20-year-old Kesavan of Perak was not satisfied despite improving on his previous best of 1:52.45.
“My mission was to improve my time by more than one second,” said Kesavan.
Meanwhile, Noor Amira Mohd Nafiah withdrew from the women’s triple jump event after she aggravated a heel injury during the warm-up.
Maria Londo of Indonesia created a new SEA Games record on 14.17m and won the gold in the women’s triple jump, erasing the old mark of 14.08m set by Thailand’s Thitima Muangjan in Laos in 2009.
Thitima registered 14.16m to bag the silver while Vietnam’s Hue Hao Tran bagged the bronze with a leap of 14.12m.
The second SEA Games record of the day was set by Thailand’s Peerachet Jantra in the men’s javelin with a throw of 76.30m.
The 20-year-old Thai shattered a 26-year-old record of 75.38m set by Frans Mahuse of Indonesia in the 1987 Jakarta SEA Games.
After three days of competition, Malaysia’s athletics haul stands at 2-2-1.