By Aftar Singh
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s track and field athletes will be under tremendous pressure at the Singapore SEA Games in June.
Their neighbours, Thailand, are brimming with confidence and are out to continue their domination in the biennial Games.
Surapong Ariyamongkol, the secretary general of the Athletic Association of Thailand, said they are gunning for the overall title for a record eighth consecutive time.
“We will only be happy if we can win more than 17 gold medals in Singapore,” said Surapong.
Surapong added that their athletes broke five SEA Games record in the last Games in Myanmar two years ago. The Thai set new marks in the men’s 110m hurdles, hammer and javelin; and in the women’s discus and pole vault.
“Our athletes have dominated track and field events for almost two decades now because we have good grassroots development programme.
“We also have long-term systematic training programmes and dedicated coaches who work hard to produce good and quality athletes in every event,” added Surapong, who is also the vice-president of the Asian Athletic Association (AAA).
Surapong also mentioned a young and promising athlete in Kotchakorn Khamrueangsri, who won the gold medal in the heptathlon event at the Asian Junior championships in Taiwan last year.
“We also have a young 400m runner Vitsanu Phosri, who clocked 47.01 in the men’s 400m in the Thailand National Juniors meet last month.”
For the Games, Surapong is confident they would win both the men’s and women’s sprint events (100m, 200m) and all four relay events (men’s and women’s 4x100m and 4x400m).
The other events the Thais are hoping to win are the men’s 400m, men’s and women’s javelin; men’s and women’s pole vault, women’s long jump, men’s shot putt, decathlon and heptathlon.
“I doubt that any country in the region can challenge us for the overall title,” said Surapong, who was in Kuala Lumpur last week for the 10th SEA Youth Championships in Bukit Jalil.
Thailand emerged champions in the Under-17 meet with a haul of 17-2-4 followed by Malaysia 6-13-12.
In the SEA Games, Malaysia had their worst outing in Myanmar bagging just four golds out of 45 at stake.
Thailand returned with a haul of 17-13-9 followed by Vietnam 10-11-12, Indonesia 6-4-7, the Philippines 6-4-3 and Malaysia 4-6-3.