Story by REDintern Fang Yiyang. Photos by REDintern Young Tan
Kallang Practice Track, Saturday, January 19, 2019 — Against all odds, Tok Yin Pin of the National University of Singapore (NUS) clocked a timing of 2 minutes and 1.36 seconds in a solo run in the men’s 800 metres timed finals to clinch his first ever gold at the Institute-Varsity-Polytechnic (IVP) Track and Field Championships.
The 800m was a timed final — two sections were held and the overall positions are determined by the runners’ timings.
Most of the favourites for the two-lap race were seeded in the first section, including POL-ITE 800m champion Kiran Raj S/O Suresh of Republic Polytechnic (RP) and 2018 IVP 800m silver medallist Jasper Tan of Nanyang Technological University (NTU). Also on the start list was defending IVP champion Zachary Ryan Devaraj of NUS who, however, was notably absent.
In section one, the first lap was covered in 62 seconds, with the pack tightly bunched together. Kiran, still in sixth position at the start of the last lap, soon unleashed his well-known finishing kick to finish first in his section.
“The plan for me was to start my sprint with 300 metres to go. Jasper made a move in the last 100 metres but I’m glad I managed to hold him off,” said Kiran.
It was a close finish as both NTU’s Jasper and Temasek Polytechnic’s Jonathan Andrew made a surge in the final stretch. Jonathan failed to sustain his pace while Kiran and Jasper battled to the finish, with Kiran clocking 2:03.32 to edge out Jasper’s 2:03.56.
Running in section two, Yin Pin was well aware that his closest competitors were not there to push him. It was up to himself to run a good time with no external help. To make matters worse, this way of running goes against his preferred racing style.
“My coach has prepared in my training to run alone, ever since the start list was released. But it is still mentally stressful as my usual tactic is to hold back and follow the leaders and overtake them in the end,” he explained.
One advantage Yin Pin possessed however, was knowing Kiran’s timing and thus being aware what timing was required to win the race.
From the start of the race Yin Pin made clear his intention to do so by surging far ahead of the pack. Finishing the first lap in 57 seconds — almost a full 50m ahead of the pack — he looked set to clock a faster timing than Kiran.
However, Yin Pin’s steady posture — and sunglasses — actually concealed his internal worry that he had started out too fast.
He said: “I think my coach expected 57 seconds, but I myself was hoping to go around 59, maybe 58 seconds. So when I saw the clock I was quite shocked. Mentally, that may have affected my second lap as well.
“Physically though, at the 600m mark, I already felt the pain I’d usually feel at the end of the race. For the last 200m, I was sustained only by all the cheers I heard.”
Despite struggling through the second lap, Yin Pin’s brisk first lap had given him enough buffer to clock the fastest timing overall, with almost two seconds to spare. His time of 2:01.36 also improves on his previous personal best of 2:02.49, set at last year’s Inter-Club Championships.
“I’m glad I got the gold; I worked very hard towards this. I’m sure the rest of the field worked very hard too, but that just gave me added motivation to work harder. I think everybody ran a good race today,” Yin Pin said.
For Kiran, the loss was not particularly upsetting, especially given that he had limited time to prepare for the race. Kiran was the POL-ITE 800m champion last November, where he also clocked his personal best of 2:02.26. Since then, however, he has been facing more obstacles.
He said: “My build-up for IVP was not good. It’s really hard to maintain the peak, I felt really burnt out after POL-ITE. I was also injured recently and could barely walk for awhile, so my training for IVP was only about two weeks. My coach told me to have no expectations, so I’m still glad to get a medal.”
“Credits to Yin Pin, I really respect the hard work he put in, especially to race on his own for the win. It really isn’t easy.”
Both Yin Pin and Kiran acknowledged that their support networks played an important role in helping them overcome their individual challenges.
“I’d like to dedicate my medal to my coach, Mr Chu, who has been training me since I was in junior college and saw potential in me when nobody — not even myself — did,” said Yin Pin. “I’d also like to thank my Cross Country friends from Raffles Hall in NUS who have been giving me constant motivation, my training partners and of course, my parents.”
“Thank you to my coach, my sponsor Under Armour, Republic Polytechnic and my family,” said Kiran, who plans to take a short break to properly recover from his long and tiring season.
IVP Men’s 800m results
1st Tok Yin Pin (#192, National University of Singapore) — 2:01.36 (section 2)
2nd Kiran Raj S/O Suresh (#271, Republic Polytechnic) — 2:03.32 (section 1)
3rd Jasper Tan (#120, Nanyang Technological University) — 2:03.56 (section 1)
4th Jonathan Andrew (#430, Temasek Polytechnic) — 2:04.58 (section 1)
5th Ignatius Tan (#189, National University of Singapore) — 2:08.99 (section 1)
6th Joshua Lim Wei Xuan (#308, Singapore Institute of Technology) — 2:09.56 (section 1)
7th Mohamed Nihal (#55, Nanyang Polytechnic) — 2:09.65 (section 2)
8th Kwok Ho Hey, Kassim (#46, Nanyang Polytechnic) — 2:10.83 (section 2)
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