KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia’s world-class divers opened their 29th SEA Games campaign with three gold medals to push the host further ahead in their race for 111 gold medals and overall domination of the biennial sporting event.
Sprinting away with 15 gold medals today, Malaysia continued their impressive lead with 83 gold, 58 silver and 53 bronze, ahead of Vietnam in second place with 50 and Singapore on 46. Thailand, the 2015 overall champion are in unfamiliar territory with 43 for fourth place followed by Indonesia with 31, the Philippines 18, Myanmar six and Laos found their first gold yesterday from petanque women’s triples to join Cambodia with one each.
The day’s action climaxed with the men’s football semifinal which saw Malaysia snatching a solitary goal through N. Thanabalan four minutes from the final whistle to set up a showdown with defending champion Thailand on Tuesday.
And in shooting, Vietnam’s Rio Olympics hero Hoang Xuan Vinh was outgunned by Malaysia’s Johnathan Wong for the men’s 10m air pistol gold with 238.30 points against Hoang’s 234.10.
At the National Aquatic Centre, Ng Yan Yee overcame pain from a spate of injuries to start the ball rolling with a 1-2 finish for Malaysia in the women’s 3m springboard for her first gold medal in four Games after accumulating 341.90 points while Nur Dhabitah Sabri took silver with 311.25 points.
“This gold is not for myself, it is for everybody. I didn’t focus on the board and didn’t know I was first,” said Yan Yee, giving credit to Nur Dhabitah as the ‘best competitor’ to push her in taking over the mantle of world champion Cheong Jun Hoong who took the gold for Malaysia in the last Games.
Supportive fans received an appreciative bow from Ooi Tze Liang who easily retained the men’s event with teammate Ahmad Amsyar Azman bagging the silver and in the mixed doubles, Olympic medallist Pandelela Rinong partnered 15-year-old Gabriel Gilbert Daim for the mixed team gold.
The close of the athletics competition was a sparkling day for Malaysia with Nauraj Singh leaping to a treble in the men’s high jump, extending his reign since the 2013 and 2015 Games. Both Nauraj and teammate Lee Hup Wei matched Loo Kum Zee’s 2.24 Games record set in the 1995 Chiangmai edition.
Rayzam Shah Wan Sofian celebrated an ecstatic gold in the men’s 110m hurdles by shaving his head bald. He led from start to finish in a time of 13.83s to upset previous gold medallist and record holder Jamras Rittidet of Thailand who arrived second.
Not to be outdone by a fine showing from the karate team, taekwondo exponents Yap Kim Wen and Chew Wei Yan swept the women’s and men’s individual Poomsae gold.
Young waterski sensation Aaliyah Yoong Hanifah, defending the women’s overall jump gold, yet again proved she was a class above the rest with 2,678.89 points with Nur Alimah Priambodo of Indonesia placing a distant second on 1,874.41 points.
Displaying their superiority in rhythmic gymnastics, Malaysia grabbed the first gold in the team final with 153.100 points facing no real threat from second-placed Thailand with 122.550 points, and will be the favourites again tomorrow in the all-round and group five hoops final.
In lawn bowls, Malaysia were in firm command, raking in a fifth and sixth gold from the men’s and women’s doubles. The men’s title was brought home by Fairul Izwan Abd Muin and Muhammad Hizlee Abdul Rais who proved too much for Filipinos Marcelito Pancho and Morales Angelo with a 20-13 win.
The women’s gold went to Siti Zalina Ahmad and Auni Fathiah Khamis who fended off Brunei’s Esawandy Brahim and Dk Nurul Nabilah Pg Md Salleh Chuchu 17-10.
The Malaysian equestrian squad continued their domination by delivering a third gold, this time by the show jumping team of Praveen Nair Mathavan, Sharmini Christina Ratnasingham, Neelan Jonathan Ratnasingham and Mohd Qabil Ambak Mahamad Fathil who ended their routine without any penalty points.
National women cagers fought off Thailand 65-60 in their last match of the round robin contest to retain the gold, with no more than six points separating them in the neck-and-neck affair.
The inaugural men’s indoor gold was lifted by Malaysia after beating Indonesia 5-1.
Today will witness the fight for 34 of the remaining 126 gold medals left in four more days of competition and attention will shift to the Velodrome in Nilai for the start of track cycling in which Malaysia led by keirin world champion Azizulhasni Awang are tipped to return with the lion’s share of the 13 gold medals up for grabs.