HANOI: National hammer thrower Jackie Wong Siew Cheer had to go through various challenges and trials, before coming back to grab the event's gold medal at the 31st SEA Games today.

He was hospitalised for nearly three months after testing positive for Covid-19 in March 2020, and was unable to undergo training for a period. It took him a year to return to the sport.

The 30-year-old athlete from Sarawak later suffered a concussion after being hit by a hammer during training last October.

Jackie's path continued to be thorny when two weeks ago he was informed that the SEA Games men's hammer event, had been cancelled due to lack of participation, with only two athletes from Malaysia and one from Thailand registered to participate.

The event was only reinstated during the SEA Games Federation Council (SEAGF) meeting two days ago, after Cambodia agreed to send Sim Samedy to compete, completing the conditions for at least three countries to participate in the event.

“When I was informed that this event was cancelled two weeks ago, I was affected both emotionally and mentally. We have waited two or three years to play in international tournaments, all this time only participating in domestic tournaments.

“Then for three months, I could not train after being hit by a hammer, and felt dizzy and nauseous while training. So, I can say this (SEA Games) gold medal is a gift from God to me,” he told reporters at the My Dinh National Stadium here today.

Jackie took gold with a throw of 66.49 metres (m) in the final attempt, to snatch the title from Kittipong Boonmawan of Thailand for the second time.

Kittipong took silver with a record of 64.54m, while another Malaysian athlete Sadat Marzuki Ajisan grabbed bronze with a throw of 58.86m.

“Before the last throw, I was a bit nervous. However, I took a deep breath, recalled my own technique and got mentally ready to perform,“ he said.

Jackie, who also holds the national record with a throw 68.22m, hopes to defend the title in the 2023 Cambodian edition (of the SEA Games) with the medal only changing hands since the 2013 edition.

Jackie took gold in the 2017 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur with a throw of 65.9m which was a games record, but was only able to grab silver in the 2019 edition in the Philippines when Kittipong claimed gold with a new games record of 67.56m.-Bernama