THE BIG SPLASHES
AQUATICS: The target was eight gold medals from the swimmers and divers. But the team chalked up their best-ever performance since the 2001 Kuala Lumpur Games.
The swimmers and divers raked in seven gold medals each and it was the best-ever result achieved in SEA Games aquatics held outside the country.
Daniel Bego and Khoo Cai Lin won two gold medals each in new SEA Games records. Cai Lin’s first individual success in the Games was made sweeter when she erased Nurul Huda Abdullah’s 19-year-old national swimming record in the 800m freestyle.
Golden feats: Ooi Wei Siang and Chan Sau Wah.
There were also superb performances from young swimmers Los Luisa Santos, Lew Yih Wey and Leung Chii Lin.
Overall, the swimmers did well to break eight national records.
The divers started slow when Leong Mun Yee bagged silver in the women’s 3m springboard but they showed their real strength by winning the next seven events.
Winning seven gold medals out of the 10 at stake is an affirmation of the success of the development programme and the emergence of young divers, among them Pandelela Rinong, Elizabeth Jimie and Ahmad Fakhri.
The seniors, like Yeoh Ken Nee and Mun Yee, showed they can still be depended on for the medals.
As for the group of young divers, their next step will be to make their presence felt even more in Asia.
THE BIG WINNERS
KARATE: They were only targeted to win four gold medals but bagged eight for their best haul outside Malaysia. The overall strength in the squad, coupled with good preparation, ensured the Malaysians were ready to take on anyone. The only setback was the failure to win either of the two team events. The exponents should now concentrate on making waves at the Asian level.
BASKETBALL: The women’s team are the talk of the town after breaking the hearts of the home fans in the pulsating 61-60 final victory over Thailand. Tan See Wah’s cagers have now won the gold medal for the fourth successive time.
LAWN BOWLS: Emerged as overall champions for their fourth straight Games. The Malaysian Lawn Bowls Federation (MLBF) had targeted a clean sweep of six gold medals in Korat but the team managed to get four from the pairs and triples of both the men’s and women’s competitions.
GYMNASTICS: After two failed attempts, Chrystal Lim emerged as the biggest winner in the rhythmic gymnastics with four gold medals – team, rope, clubs and ribbon. With four out of the six titles, the rhythmic side emerged as the overall champions again. None was expected from the artistic but two were delivered through Ooi Wei Siang and Chan Sau Wah. Overall, Malaysia surpassed their target by winning six gold. SUPRISE WINNERS
ATHLETICS: Rayzam Shah Wan Sofian, a last-minute replacement for the injured Robani Hassan, smashed the 110m hurdles Games record. The 19-year-old clocked 13.91 to erase the time of 13.92 set by Thailand’s Suphan Wongsriphuck in 2003. The men’s 4x400m quartet ended the nation’s 10-year drought in the event, beating the formidable Thais in front of their own crowd. Mohd Jafril Zuslaini, Mohd Zaiful Zainal Abidin, S. Thipan and K. Amaran Raj ran the race of their life to win in 3.07:95.
AQUATICS: Coach Gavin Urquhart was banking on Khoo Cai Lin to contend for a SEA Games gold medal in her third appearance. But she went one step better by taking a double win in dominant fashion and setting Games records. Cai Lin will be hoping to do well in the Olympics in Beijing next year.
CYCLING: The highlight of the entire competition was the record-breaking performance by the Malaysian 4km team pursuit in the track competition. The team of Amir Mustafa Rusli, Mohd Jasmin Ruslan, Mohd Akmak Amrun and Mohd Harrif Saleh set a new Games record, slashing nearly 12 seconds off the old mark. They clocked 4:27.919 to erase the old mark of 4:39.560 also set by the previous national team in the Manila Games two years ago.
GYMNASTICS: Youngster Chan Sau Wah was not even supposed to be at the Games. She came in as a replacement for Cheong See Teng just a week before the Games but the 16-year-old pulled off the biggest surprise by winning the uneven bars gold. She did even better than defending champion Nurul Fatiha Abdul Hamid. She is set to take over the torch in the sport for Malaysia following the decision by Nurul to quit.
BOWLING: Newcomer Zatil Iman Abdul Ghani joined seasoned campaigners Shalin Zulkifli and Esther Cheah to win three gold medals each. Zatil showed no sign of nerves as she combined well with the seniors to nail the gold medal in the doubles, trios and five-woman team. With her breakthrough performances, the 18-year-old Zatil is set to be a regular feature in Malaysia’s future major assignments. NO HORSING AROUND
EQUESTRIAN: Top Malaysian rider Qabil Ambak Mahamad Fathil put up a stunning display in the dressage and show jumping competitions to equal his four-gold medal haul achieved in the 2001 KL Games. Qabil rode Dexter to pick up his medals for dressage (team and individual) and used Parvina for a winning performance in showjumping (team and individual). Qabil also stamped his mark by becoming the only rider to have a clear round (without penalties) in showjumping.
THE HUGE FLOPS
SILAT: Malaysia came to Korat with strong credentials after having won seven gold medals at the World Championships in Kuantan two months ago. Sadly, none of the world champions managed to win their events and the team ended with a haul of one silver and six bronze medals. Rina Jordana Adnan was the only Malaysian to make the final – in the women’s under-50kg event.
FOOTBALL: The target for the men’s team was the gold but they returned home empty-handed. The team failed to make it past the group stage – losing to Vietnam (1-3), beating Laos (4-0) and drawing with Singapore (1-1).
SEPAKTAKRAW: The national association stirred up a major controversy in Korat by withdrawing from the competition in protest against the use of the new rubberised-ball. The action earned them a grilling from the Asian Sepaktakraw Federation (ASTAF). The real big losers here were the young Malaysian team, who had been in centralised training for almost a year.
BADMINTON: Malaysia did not have a finalist for the first time in the series since the 1961 SEAP Games in Rangoon. They were represented by an under-strength team and were not expected to be in contention for the gold in the company of teams at full strength from Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore. But one would have expected heart-warming performances from the back-up players but their uninspiring performances reflect a bleak future for Malaysian badminton.
SHOOTING: they were expected to get Malaysia off to a flying start in competitions that began before the official opening of the Games on Dec 6. But the team fell short of the target by gunning down two gold medals through the men’s rapid fire pistol team and the women’s 50m rifle prone team. Much was expected from the country’s top men’s and women’s pistol and rifle shooters but Hasli Izwan Amir Hassan and Nur Suryani Taibi only had silver medals to show. Shooting had targeted four gold medals.