Hawks end hoodoo

Atlanta beat Boston in a play-off series for the first time since 1958

NO WAY THROUGH: Paul Millsap (No. 4) and Al Horford (No. 15) of the Atlanta Hawks attempt to defend a shot by the Boston Celtics' Jae Crowder

NBA, Boston Celtics, Atlanta Hawks

Athletics aims to attract the young

THE LAUNCH: Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Grace Fu (eight from left) together with the head coaches of the ActiveSG Athlethics Club and its Team Singapore Sport Ambassadors.
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Tags: athletics

Malaysia flex muscles ahead of 2017 KL SEA Games

For the first time in 16 years, the South-east Asia (SEA) Games will head to Malaysia in August next year.

And the hosts are determined to get it right in track and field.

Judging by their athletes' performances at the 78th Singapore Open Track and Field Championships, they're shaping up just fine.

In the three individual sprint events (100m, 200m and 400m) of the two-day meet at the National Stadium - it also featured athletes from Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines and Macau, among others - the Malaysian took seven podium spots out of a possible 18.

At last year's SEA Games, they only had just one; Shereen Vallabuoy's bronze medal in the 400m.

The improvement is no coincidence.

National sprints head coach Hamberi Mahat told The New Paper the success is because the plan to build towards the 2017 Games is working .

"What better stage to do well than at a SEA Games on home soil," asked the former national sprinter.

"We didn't have a long-term plan before that, so this was the perfect chace to start one.

"We officially started the programme in September last year, but the Malaysian Athletics Federation laid the groundwork even before that."

Apart from their better-than-expected performances in the sprint events, Malaysians also shone in the field events.

On Thursday, the men's high jump saw Nauraj Singh clinch a spot at the Olympic Games by meeting the qualifying standard of 2.29m, making him Malaysia's first track and field athlete to gain automatic qualification for Rio.

Yesterday, triple jumper Hakimi Ismail won his event with a 16.12m effort. The 2015 SEA Games champion and Games' record holder (16.76m) was a class apart from his nearest challenger, Thailand's Chakkrit Panthsa, who managed 14.70m.

Discus star Irfan Shamsuddin (above), 20, hurled the disc 55.65m to also claim the gold medal.

He has won two SEA Games gold medals back-to-back and seems destined to dominate the event in the region for the next decade.

Said Hamberi: "To be honest, all our athletes are not new.

"Most of them competed at last year's SEA Games.

"But, in terms of times and results, they are all doing much better, and this is all down to the programme we put in place.

"From the KPIs set for us, all our athletes have already met or are close to meeting them, for the first phase of the programme. So I would say we are in good shape."

Tags: attack and athletics

Fifth, but new-look Singapore sprint quartet still smile

New Singapore sprint relay men happy enough with first big outing

COMPLETE: Timothee Yap (right) was the final runner for 
 the new-look Singapore 'A' 4x100m relay
 team.

A new-look national men's 4x100m relay team took to the track at 78th Singapore Open Track and Field Championships at the National Stadium yesterday.

While they hardly took the breath away with their time - they clocked 40.44 sec to finished fifth, more than a second behind winners Indonesia (39.28) - the Republic's sprinters had reason to smile.

Calvin Kang, one of just two faces left from the previous squad, said: "I would say 40.44 is very good.

"Usually teams that come together for the first time run about a 40.8 the first time.

"And some of our passing today was safe... From today's performances, some of the juniors are stepping up okay.

"Ideally, all of us should be running a 10.5s average. At the moment, we are running about 10.8s on average."

The quartet that ran as the new "A" team yesterday were Kang, Naqib Asmin, Khairyll Amri and Timothee Yap.

The relay team lost four seniors after last June's SEA Games on home soil, when they won a fourth consecutive silver medal with a new national record of 39.24.

BRIDGING THE GAP

Gary Yeo, Amirudin Jamal, Lee Cheng Wei and Elfi Mustapa hung up their spikes after the biennial Games, leaving only 28-year-old Kang and 21-year-old Naqib.

Yap, one of the new guard, admitted the task of bridging the gap with the region's top countries will be a tough slog.

"We have big shoes to fill," said the 22-year-old, who won this year's Institute-Varsity-Polytechnic Track and Field Championships 100m with a wind-aided 10.52sec.

"The previous guys trained together for so long, they had very good chemistry.

"But for us to get a 40.44s on our first run is commendable.

"Over the next year or so, our base speed has to improve, especially if we want to compete with the Thais and Indonesians."

National coach (sprints, relays and hurdles) Luis Cunha was nonplussed by the task ahead.

When asked if he had a tough challenge on his hands, the Portuguese three-time Olympian said: "The word is not 'tough'. But we need time.

"This season, we have no major competitions, so it is very much a season of transition for the team.

"Next year, we have the SEA Games and that's the important one."

He added that he had problems finding enough quality sprinters to form a boys' junior relay team for June's Asian Junior Athletics Championships in Vietnam, and was likely to just travel with a girls' team.

He added he would present a preparation plan to the Singapore Athletics exco ahead of next year's SEA Games in August, in a bid to get the team to peak then.

Kang is hopeful.

He noted yesterday's time was clocked despite him nursing a knee injury, and Naqib had only just returned from a back injury.

"It's been a long journey for the relay team," said Kang.

"A lot of us are at different parts of the season, and we only had two relay training sessions together.

"In fact, the second was just last week.

"So, all things considered, today's time was not bad."

Tags: athletics

With a final kick, Hussein bags gold

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Double golds for Aljunied family

Amirah wins double-gold and pays tribute to her inspiration

"He encouraged me the most. I started running in primary school, but I wasn’t very good and I wanted to stop. But he told me not to and encouraged me to keep going. I’m glad I listened to him." - Amirah Aljunied, on her late grandfather Hussain Aljunied, the former Singapore football coach and national player who passed away last month

Her day on the track started at 2.30pm with the Girls' A Division 100m final at the National Schools' Track and Field Championships at the National Stadium yesterday.

Amirah Aljunied, 17, clocked 12.87sec to win gold.

At 4.15pm, the Raffles Institution student went onto the track again with three teammates, for the Girls' A Division 4x100m relay and, in a slick display, clinched first place in 50.50.

After winning her first gold on Monday in the Girls' A Division 200m final, Amirah stepped out onto the track for her final race, the Girls' A Division 4x400m relay, hoping to make it four out of four.

Unfortunately, the quartet from Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) proved too powerful, finishing first in 4min 14.82sec, while the RI girls won silver (4:17.87). ACJC claimed the bronze in 4:21.60.

A win would have seen Amirah match the four-gold haul of the Singapore Sports School's Diane Hilary Pragasam, 15, and Pasir Ris Secondary School's Syed Hussein Aljunied, 16.

However, Amirah was still pleased with her overall performance and attributed her success mostly to her late grandfather Hussain Aljunied, the former Singapore football coach and national player who passed away last month.

BIG SUPPORTER

"He was a big supporter. I ran most of my races for him and just thought of making him proud," she told The New Paper.

"He encouraged me the most. I started running in primary school, but I wasn't very good and I wanted to stop. But he told me not to and encouraged me to keep going.

"I'm glad I listened to him."

When asked who else contributed to her success, Amirah said: "My coach because he has been there for me since I was in Secondary 1. He's the one who really got me to where I am today.

"My teammates also as they were very supportive."

In the Boys' B Division 100m final, 16-year-old Joshua Chua (above) of RI clinched first place in 10.87, breaking the previous record of 10.90 set by Singapore Sports School's Shahrir Mohd Anuar in 2009.

"I have to thank my parents, coaches and teammates especially. This shows that my training has paid off and I'm really happy that things turned out this way," he said.

Goodman put down

CAREER HIGH: Jockey Corey Brown steering Goodman to victory in the Chairman's Trophy in July 2014.
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Keeper says Barca have learnt from losing run

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Swipe at Arsenal fans

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