NAYPYITAW: Nauraj Singh Randhawa was caught got off guard in the men’s high jump event as he had no time to warm up after the event was brought forward by one hour.
The event, which was scheduled to begin at 3.30pm, was brought forward to 2.30pm by the organiser.
The lanky Nauraj, who was making his debut in the SEA Games, however, managed to overcome the unexpected time change to win the gold with a height of 2.17m at the Wunna Theikdi Main Stadium here on Wednesday.
The Johorean, who will turn 22 on Jan 27, hardly faced any strong challenge from seven competitors to win the event in the absence of former Asian champion and three-time gold medallist Lee Hup Wei, who failed to qualify for the Games.
Malaysia have been dominating the men’s high jump event for the last two years.
Nauraj cleared the height of 2.05m, 2.13m and 2.17m on his first attempt. The gold was already in the bag after Vietnam’s Van Thuy Dao and Thailand’s Pramote Pumurai failed to clear 2.17m.
The Vietnamese and Thai were tied at 2.13m but Thuy Dao was awarded the silver on countback.
Nauraj said that he was shocked when he was told that the event was brought forward by one hour when he arrived at the stadium at 2pm.
“I had no time to warm up. However, I just stayed calm and cool as my mission in Naypyitaw was to win the gold.
“I had a good start clearing 2.05m on the first attempt and I decided not to jump at 2.09m and went for 2.13m. I had no problem clearing the height and was also glad to clear 2.17m on my first jump.
“With the gold already mine after the Filipino and Thailand athletes failed to clear 2.17m on all three attempts, my coach Alim (Ahemdjoun) told me to go for 2.25m to break the SEA Games record of 2.24m (held by Malaysia’s Loo Kum Zee since the 1995 Chiang Mai Games).
“I have never ever jumped higher than 2.20m in my career but I tried my best to clear 2.25m, but failed on all three attempts,” said Nauraj, who is pursuing a degree in sports science at Universiti Malaya.
Nauraj said he is happy to be the new SEA Games champion and his mission now is to further improve his personal best to feature in the Olympics.
Another Malaysian S. Navinraj, who is featuring for the second time in the Games, again finished without a medal.
Also from Johor, Navinraj only managed 2.09m to finish fifth.