Muhammad Haiqal crowned South-East Asia’s sprint king


NEW CLARK CITY • The absence of his coach from the 30th SEA Games did not dampen the spirits of Muhammad Haiqal Hanafi (picture) as he obliterated a field of more established runners to claim the sprint king title yesterday.

Muhammad Haiqal, 20, sprinted down the tracks of the New Clark City Athletics Stadium in 10.35sec to enable Malaysia to retain the men’s 100m gold.

The silver and bronze went to Thailand’s Sowan Ruttanapon and Chuangchai Bandit, who clocked 10.49sec and 10.52sec respectively. Muhammad Haiqal’s teammate Khairul Hafiz Jantan had won the event at the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games in 2017.

Muhammad Haiqal, a late inclusion for the games, clocked a personal season’s best of 10.39sec in the heats this morning.

The Tunku Mahkota Ismail Sports School student was clearly elated by his success, dedicating it to his parents, coach Mohd Poad Mohd Kassim and the people of Malaysia for their support for national athletes.

“I did not expect to win and I was just focusing on my own run. Before the event, I asked my coach (Mohd Poad) and parents to pray for me.

“This is a very meaningful victory because it is my first time participating in an individual event in the SEA Games. Alhamdulillah, I’ve proven to my coach that I can do it,” said the Negri Sembilan-born runner.

Muhammad Haiqal said it was a tight race with the two Thai runners breathing down his neck until he stepped up the tempo in the last few metres.

In the women’s 100m final, national sprinter Zaidatul Husniah Zulkifli could only manage sixth place with a time of 11.84sec.

The gold was won by Vietnam’s Le Tu Chinh in 11.54sec, while Kristina Marie Knott of the Philippines took the silver in 11.55sec and Singapore’s Shanti Veronica Pereira claimed the bronze in 11.66sec.