Malaysia pull off 111-gold mission with more to come for best ever SEA Games

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian athletes have delivered the 111 gold medals in the 29th SEA Games as entrusted and more exciting still is that they are on track to present a bigger gift for the nation's 60th birthday on Thursday.

With two days of competition left, there is no denying the hosts from reaping greater glory for their best ever Games after another unstoppable day in rhythmic gymnastics, track cycling and diving which landed 11 of 15 gold to close the gap to their overall target.

World cycling champion Azizulhasni Awang delivered the 111th gold after beating teammate Muhammad Shah Firdaus Sahrom in the men's sprint decider at the National Velodrome in Nilai in which three of the four finals tonight were all-Malaysian contests.

"This is an achievement that I will never forget because we are the hosts. This is my last SEA Games in which I had many memorable moments and who knows, this can bring me fortune in the Tokyo Olympics," said Azizulhasni who will be in action in the keirin tomorrow.

The jubilation that greeted the feat rivalled the joy of the home team advancing into the men's football final against defending champion Thailand tomorrow night.

Entrenched at the top of the medals board and the only country to hit the century mark, Malaysia have an unassailable lead over second-placed Thailand with 59, Vietnam 54, Singapore 49, Indonesia 32, the Philippines 23, Myanmar seven, Laos two and Cambodia one.

Tiny Timor Leste with 50 athletes finally gained a medal - a bronze from Sonia Martins Soares in taekwondo kyorugi women's under 46kg. With this, none of the 11 participating countries will go home empty-handed.

While rhythmic gymnastics is over, Malaysia are the overwhelming favourites for the remaining honours in track cycling winding up tomorrow with five more gold and also in diving which has another five titles up for grab over the next two days.

As the Games braces for a monstrous day tomorrow with the highest number of 60 gold at stake, long queues snaked outside the Shah Alam Stadium to snap up tickets for the football final.

As expected, Malaysia dominated rhythmic gymnastics completely to sweep all eight gold. Koi Sie Yan, Amy Kwan Dict Weng and Izzah Amzan took turns to dominate all four individual apparatus as expected before the national team wrapped up the group mixed apparatus with gold.

Kwan clinched the country's 100th gold in the ribbon and also taking the hoop silver while Izzah Amzan finished tops in the ball and collected the club silver as well. Koi, individual all-around champion, packed away the club and hoop gold and silver in the ribbon and ball.

Also victorious at the National Velodrome were Fatehah Mustapa who beat teammate Farina Shawati Mohd Bakri for the women's sprint title and Eiman Firdaus Mohd Zamri edging compatriot Mohamad Nur Aiman Mohd Zariff in the men's individual pursuit.

At the National Aquatic Centre, Malaysia had another golden evening as they continued their sweep of diving landing three more for a total of eight so far.

Olympian doubles medallist Pandelela Rinong looked very relaxed and was in full command in the 10m platform from the start to defend the gold with 341.65 points, trailing were Singapore's Freida Lim on 274.65 points and fellow Malaysian Kimberly Bong Qian Ping with 255.05 points.

"I have no more events after this, I can take a rest. I am praying my teammates will do will as they did in training. Just enjoy the competition," said the Sarawakian diver who took the gold in the mixed team with Gabriel Gilbert Daim two days ago.

Malaysia clinched the men's 1m springboard but it was not Ooi Tze Liang but Ahmad Amsyar Azman who dominated for the gold with 384.00 points while Ooi scrambled back from sixth position after bungling his jump to finish second with 368.60 points.

Jasmine Lai Pui Yee and Muhammad Syafiq Puteh bagged the mixed synchronised 3m springboard synchronised gold.

A fourth and fifth medal from squash came from the all-Malaysia individual competition. S. Sivasangari beat Rachel Arnold 15-13, 13-11, 11-6 for the women's singles gold while Ng Eain Yow edged Muhammad Syafiq Mohd Kamal 11-4 11-9 11-2 in the men's affair.

But Malaysia were shocked by the Philippines in the men's team semifinals after Ng was defeated by Robert Andrew Garcia 8-11, 3-11, 7-11 while P. Darren Rahul was outplayed by Juan Rafael Yam in 11-6, 8-11, 7-11, 11-4, 8-11.

Malaysia scored twice in the last quarter to retain the women's field hockey title beating Thailand 2-0 while Singapore took the bronze with a similar margin over Indonesia.

In badminton, Malaysia are through to three finals tomorrow and finally assured of a first gold with Soniia Cheah and Goh Jin Wei meeting in the women's singles final. — Bernama