Story and photos by Iman Hashim/Red Sports

Zeen Chia (#590) of Hwa Chong Institution clinched his first ever National Schools gold with a winning leap of 6.69m in the B Division boys' long jump. (Photo 1 © Iman Hashim/Red Sports)

Ready for take-off: Zeen Chia (#590) of Hwa Chong Institution clinched his first ever National Schools gold with a winning leap of 6.69m in the B Division boys’ long jump. (Photo 1 © Iman Hashim/Red Sports)

Choa Chu Kang Stadium, Monday, March 11, 2019 — Just three years ago, Hwa Chong Institution’s Zeen Chia was competing in racewalking because his coaches told him his frame was too small to be a jumper. But he always knew long jump was his first love.

“I made a deal with my teacher in Sec 1,” said the Secondary 4 student, who started dabbling in long jump in primary school. “I said, if I can podium in Sec 1 in the racewalk, then he would let me do two events, the long jump and racewalk, because I really love long jump.”

And he got what he wished for, after earning silver in the 2016 C Division boys’ 1500-metre walk. The following year, he claimed silver medals in both the 1500m walk and long jump.

Fast forward another two years, Zeen has the last laugh, clinching the B Division boys’ long jump gold at the 60th National Schools Track and Field Championships in a huge personal best of 6.69 metres.

“Initially the teachers told me that my performance in long jump would stagnate around C Div, because they say in B Div everyone will grow very big, and I’d still be small,” he continued.

Zeen improved on his previous best mark of 6.22m set last month at the Singapore Athletics Schools Episode 3, and went far beyond the 6.13m which placed him fourth in last year’s B Division.

His winning leap was at least 30 centimetres further than the jumps recorded by his nearest competitors, HCI teammate Isaac Ong (6.39m) and Raffles Institution’s high jump champion Mingwen Lee Sullivan (6.21m).

It is also the fourth best jump in the history of this event in the B Division, behind record holder Tan Lin Keat (6.79m), Yusuf Arsyad (6.75m) and Gary Wee (6.71m).

Still, Zeen downplayed his achievement.

“Actually I don’t think it’s a rapid improvement,” he said. “Last year was just a bad year, I fouled like four out of six of my jumps. So from last season to this season I worked a lot on my board, so that I won’t foul the jumps.

“And recently I started doing sprinting too, so maybe that helped, because in long jump, the speed helps a lot.”

Zeen will now look to win the 100m final on March 29 at the National Stadium, after qualifying overall second from the semi-finals with a 11.44-second timing.

If he pulls off the double, he will be the first boy to do so since Chen Kede, then of Raffles Junior College, won the A Division 100m and long jump gold medals way back in 1983.

B Division Boys’ Long Jump – Top 8
1st Zeen Chia (#590, Hwa Chong Institution) — 6.69 metres
2nd Isaac Ong Li Kiat (#567, Hwa Chong Institution) — 6.39
3rd Mingwen Lee Sullivan (#302, Raffles Institution) — 6.21
4th Kapil Arnav (#490, Victoria School) — 6.16
5th Tertius Zhuo Zheheng (#154, Singapore Sports School) — 6.12
6th Aloysius Chia Chu-Yang (#39, Catholic High School) — 6.10
7th Ooi Wei Chern (#569, Hwa Chong Institution) — 6.06
8th Saifuddin Bin Nasrudin (#149, Singapore Sports School) — 6.02

More photos next page