by P PREM KUMAR / Pic by BERNAMA
Malaysia has an unassailable lead and will be crowned the champion at the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games 2017 after securing 104 gold medals as of yesterday evening.
As the gold medals continue to flow, the regional Games, which ends tomorrow, is expected to be Malaysia’s best ever gold medal haul in the history of the biennial competition.
Malaysia’s best outing in the regional sporting event was 111 gold medals at the the 2001 Kuala Lumpur SEA Games.
Excitement in the country reached new levels after Malaysia secured the 100th gold medal from national gymnast Amy Kwan Dict Weng.
As expected, Malaysia dominated rhythmic gymnastics to sweep all eight gold. Kwan, Koi Sie Yan and Izzah Amzan took turns to dominate all four individual apparatus yesterday before the national team took the final gold in the group mixed apparatus.
At press time, Malaysian athletes have chalked up 104 gold, 71 silver and 69 bronze medals.
The highly-anticipated challenge from Thailand failed to materialise as Malaysia’s northern neighbour is far behind in the medal standing with 60 gold medals. Vietnam is third with 54-41-50 medals.
Today, 60 more gold medals will be up for grab for athletes from 11 nations. Malaysia is expected to continue its fine run on the 10th day of the 29th SEA Games, which opened on Aug 19.
Malaysia is the favourite to add gold in events like taekwondo, pencak silat, cycling and badminton.
Malaysia is assured of the first gold from badminton as Soniia Cheah and Goh Jin Wei advanced into the women’s singles
final today, while mixed doubles Goh Soon Huat and Shevon Jemie Lai also qualified for the final match. But the country’s attention will focus on the final football match between Malaysia and Thailand at the Shah Alam Stadium. About 70,000 spectators are expected to fill the stadium.
Winning the football gold medal has always been the dream for any football-crazy country like Malaysia. The country’s football has been in the doldrums for the last few
years. Malaysia is ranked 166th in the FIFA football rankings, while Thailand is ranked 130th in the world.
The country’s hope will be again pinned on young striker N Thanabalan, who scored the only goal in Malaysia’s 1-0 win against Indonesia in the semifinal.
Securing the overall winner and exceeding the gold medals target would be a double bonus for Malaysians, who will celebrate the nation’s 60th anniversary of independence on Thursday.