AYG Athletics: Inez Leong crosses hurdle to take podium spot

Story by Colin Tung/Red Sports. Pictures by Vanessa Lim/Red Sports.

Athletics Day 3 Asia youth games

Inez Leong was so focused during her race that she did not realise that she had finished third in the 100m hurdles. Her time of 15.22s was only 0.08s off her personal best. (Photo 1 © Vanessa Lim/Red Sports)

Bishan Stadium, Thursday, July 2, 2009 – With fierce competition from the top 2 qualifiers, and realistically only the last podium spot to fight for in the 100m hurdles girls’ final, Inez Leong nailed it to take the bronze medal for Singapore in 15.22 seconds.

Inez edged out 4th-placed Anne Marie Keshani Perera of Sri Lanka by 0.26s. Ueda Mayu of Japan won the gold and Park Seulgi of Korea finished runner-up in times of 14.18s and 14.67s respectively.

Singapore won two bronze medals from the field events on the opening day of the athletics competition, and this makes Inez the first Singapore athlete in a track event to mount the podium.

After being the only two athletes running under 15s in the heats yesterday, the Japanese and the Korean, running side by side in lanes 6 and 5 respectively, were the obvious favourites as they settled into the blocks.

As the gun blasted into the air, Japan’s Mayu raced away from the field and never looked back in an improvement on her time of 14.83s in the heats. Korea’s Seulgi also bettered her time of 14.90s in the heats, but it was not significant enough to pose a challenge to Mayu’s superior hurdling.

As the girls from the two Asian giants crossed the line, all eyes searched for the one who would get the last medal. Crossing over the hurdles out on lane 8, there she was from our little red island, as Inez focused on reaching the finish line.

We caught up with her as she walked into the mixed zone, still catching her breath, for her thoughts about finishing third and getting the bronze medal.

“Huh? I got the bronze medal? You mean I got third? It was so close… are you sure?”, she rattled off in wide-eyed excitement.

“It was very difficult to control my emotions. I was very scared and very nervous,” Inez elaborated on what went through her mind in the starting blocks.

As we continued chatting with her, a timely confirmation of her third-placing came over the public announcement system.

She shared about her feelings on the achievement: “I feel very proud to get a medal for Singapore. I am thankful for the opportunity to show Singapore what I can do.”

When asked about how she was going to celebrate it, she said she had to get the 400m hurdles final, which she was due to run in under an hour’s time, out of the way first. And that was not before she had to attend the medal-presentation ceremony as well. After the formalities of the ceremony were done away with, she took her place in the 400m hurdles final, on the inside this time, in lane 1.

Drained by her effort earlier on, she still finished a credible sixth in a time of 1 minute 9.62 seconds.

As we met the sprightly girl once again after the 400m hurdles final, the toll of having cleared twenty hurdles over two races while running at an optimal speed showed up on her.

She mustered in between breaths: “I am too tired to think… everything happened so fast – the 100m hurdles, the victory ceremony then the 400m hurdles and now the doping test.”

Nevertheless, she was relieved to have finished her races and to have lent a contribution to Singapore’s medal tally as she left for her doping test.

The 400m hurdles was won by China’s Cheng Yafan in a time of 1:02.15. Le Binh Dinh of Vietnam and Sushma Mekala of India picked up the silver and bronze medals with performances of 1:02.79 and 1:03.44 respectively.

On the third day of athletics competition, there were nine finals as Inez’s teammates Syafiq Poh Shahabiddin (long jump), Jared Lim (400m) and Edwin Tay (400m hurdles) also saw action.

Syafiq Poh could only leap 6.24m to finish ninth in the field of fifteen competitors. He had fouled on his first couple of jumps and disappointingly, his 6.24m effort, that was some way short of his personal best of 6.71m, on the third jump could not earn him the right for another three jumps that were accorded to the top-eight jumpers.

Huang Haibing of China was the only boy over 7m as he took the gold with his leap of 7.28m. Pang Ying Kit of Hongkong and Alhasan Mohammad Yaseen of Saudi Arabia were second and third with distances of 6.81m and 6.68m respectively.

In the 400m final, Jared Lim clocked 50.88s to finish sixth. The winner was Oishi Masanori of Japan with a time of 48.92s. Thongpoon Nitipol of Thailand pipped Abkar Abdullah Ahmed B of Saudi Arabia by a hair’s breadth for the silver medal in times of 49.27s and 49.29s respectively.

Jared’s 50.88s was slower than his 50.39s clocked in the heats.

He explained what went on: “I went all out in the heats trying to qualify for the final and the effort (a personal best) definitely strained my body. I didn’t feel the best today.”

Jared tried hard to keep pace with the leaders in the initial 200m and he paid for it with a last 100m of 14s – according to his coach Remy Gan. It was an indication of the superiority of the other athletes but Jared believes such competition will only make him faster. He had not gone sub-51s before the Asian Youth Games (AYG).

He said: “I came into this competition telling myself to do a PB and I did this so I am happy.”

Edwin Tay was another testimony that strong competition brings the best out of oneself when he, too, achieved his personal best at the AYG today in the 400m hurdles. He clocked 58.00s to place fourth. The St Joseph’s Institution student’s previous personal best was 59.14s set in April at the National Inter-School Track and Field Championships.

The 400m hurdles was won by Chen Dong of China in a time of 53.19s. Selwyn Jebaraj Mervin of India and Karam Yousef of Kuwait earned the silver and bronze medals in times of 54.41s and 54.80s respectively.

Athletics Day 3 Asia youth games

(From left to right) Silver medallist Park Seulgi (14.67s) of Korea, winner Ueda Mayu (14.18s) of Japan and bronze medallist Singapore’s Inez Leong (15.22s). (Photo 2 © Vanessa Lim/Red Sports)

Athletics Day 3 Asia youth games

Jared Lim placed sixth in the 400m boys’ finals with a time of 50.88s. (Photo 3 © Vanessa Lim/Red Sports)

Athletics Day 3 Asia youth games

Edwin Tay in lane 7 of the 400m hurdles final. He placed 4th with a time of 58.00s. (Photo 4 © Vanessa Lim/Red Sports)

Athletics Day 3 Asia youth games

Watching her hurdle in the 400m hurdles final is Inez Leong. (Photo 5 © Vanessa Lim/Red Sports)

Athletics Day 3 Asia youth games

Syafiq Poh Shahabiddin could only record one good jump – on his third attempt, a 6.24m that saw him place ninth and bow out of the competition. (Photo 6 © Vanessa Lim/Red Sports)

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