Indonesian sprinter Felipus sets new Asian mark
Indonesian sprinter upsets defending champion and breaks Asian record
He was not even targeting the gold medal in his event.
But Indonesian Felipus Kolymau surprised everyone - himself included - when he pipped reigning Asean Para Games (APG) champion Mohd Nasharuddin of Malaysia at the finish in the T20 class (intellectual disability) of the 400m at the National Stadium yesterday morning.
The icing on the cake for the peroxide blond 20-year-old was that his time of 49.57 seconds was a new Asian record, smashing the previous mark of 51.61 clocked by Iranian Nasiri Bazanjani Peyman at last year's Asian Para Games in Incheon, South Korea.
Felipus did not even realise his lung-busting effort was a new Asian best until this reporter told him after the race.
"Really? The whole of Asia?" he exclaimed in Bahasa Indonesia, with wide-eyed excitement.
"Wow. I don't know what to say... I'm just so happy."
Hailing from the small port city of Kupang in West Timor, Felipus had set himself a target of winning only a silver medal.
After all, pre-race favourite Nasharuddin had clocked an APG record of 51.67 en route to winning gold in Myanmar last year.
But, after matching the Malaysian stride for stride for 350m, Felipus found an extra gear to power ahead in the final stretch and dip just ahead of his rival, who finished just 0.08 behind.
In an incredibly competitive race, even the bronze-medal winner, Nurdin Tine Endi of Indonesia (50.99 sec), bettered Peyman's old Asian best.
Said Felipus: "I expected only a silver, because I know how good the Malaysian is.
"But I guess God had bigger plans for me. Now, I just want to continue to work harder and win all my future races."
Local hopeful Suhairi Suhani, the only Singaporean in the field of seven, finished sixth with 56.92.
The 18-year-old, who was the youngest competitor in his final, said he was proud of his achievement.
He struck gold in the 800m at the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Greece, but has been focusing on shorter sprints in recent years.
Unfortunately for him, there is no 100m T20 race at the APG.
"I had to overcome my nerves, but I think I did well," said Suhairi, who will also compete in the long jump tomorrow.
"Before the race, I told myself: Just go for it.
"My mum is here, I love her, and I wanted to do well for her.
"I had only three or four months to prepare for (the 400m) and that's not much time...
"I just want to thank my coach and SDSC for pushing me to where I am today."
"I expected only a silver,because I know how good the Malaysian is. But I guess God had bigger plans for me. Now, I just want to continue to work harder and win all my future races.":
— Indonesia’s Felipus Kolymau, winner of the 400m T20 class
Asian records tumble
Indonesia's Felipus Kolymau was not the only athlete to set a new Asian record at the National Stadium yesterday.
In the men's 400m T11 (visually-handicapped) class, Thailand's Supchachai Songphinit also set a new continent's best with a 53.14-sec effort, bettering the old mark of 53.85 sec set by China's Wu Xiang in 2006.
In the men's 100m T36 (cerebral palsy) class, Malaysia's Ridzuan Puzi completed a short sprint double by winning in 12.01, smashing the previous Asian record of 12.38 held by compatriot Mohammad Mat Lazin.
Ridzuan, 28, had won the 200m T36 race in 23.02 secs on Friday.
Felipus' gold was one of eight collected by Indonesia's athletes yesterday, and takes their gold haul after three days of action to 19 and puts them on top of the standings.
Malaysia celebrated winning four gold medals yesterday, taking their tally to 17, while Thailand have a total of 14 golds following three won yesterday.
- SAZALI ABDUL AZIZ