KUCHING: It was established in the rarefied atmosphere of Mexico City during the 1968 Olympic Games. Forty-nine years later, Dr Mani Jegathesan’s national 200m record of 20.92sec – Malaysia’s oldest track & field record – is finally broken.
In creating that record almost half a century ago, the ‘Flying Doctor’ had qualified for the semi-finals on the world’s biggest stage – the first Malaysian athlete to ever do so.
Only one other athlete has done so since.
That was when the late Istiaq Mobarak entered the last 16 of the 110m hurdles at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, Canada.
Both Dr M and Istiaq also stood on the podium among Asia’s best during their time.
The Flying Doctor was a multiple gold medalist in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay at the 1966 and 1970 Asian Games. High hurdler Istiaq won a bronze and then a silver at the 1966 and 1974 Asian Games respectively.
On Tuesday night, current national sprint sensation Khairul Hafiz Jantan smashed the 49-year-old national 200m record by winning the event at the 94th Malaysian Open Athletics Championships in Bukit Jalil.
He freezed the electronic timer at 20.90sec on the National Stadium’s synthetic turf newly laid for the upcoming KL SEA Games.
The schoolboy from Malacca is also the reigning Sukma champion in both the 100 and 200m.
He had already broken the national record in the shorter distance with a time of 10.18sec at last year’s Sarawak Sukma in Kuching.
The youngster appears to have recovered somewhat from a recent debacle at the Asian Athletics Championships in India barely a week ago.
Competing against Asia’s best he clocked the fastest time of 10.24sec in the 100m heats and semi-finals.
But it was probably inexperience or nerves that cost him a false start and disqualification in the final.
Khairul Jantan is clearly a rare and special talent. Local sports fans can only hold their breath as they await his performance at next month’s SEA Games. He has already promised to go all out to win both the 100 and 200m on the very same track.
In fact, truth be told, his precocious gift demands that the 19-year-old must eventually realise his full potential not just in Southeast Asia but on the Asian (if not the world) stage, like Dr Mani Jegathesan in the 1960s and Istiaq Mobarakin the 1970s.