Silver for relay quartet, despite national record
Gary Yeo and Co set new national record but not enough to beat the Thais
Just before he disappeared into the tunnel heading into the bowels of the National Stadium yesterday, national sprinter Gary Yeo let out an anguished roar.
Minutes earlier, Yeo was part of the Singapore 4x100m relay team - with Calvin Kang, Lee Cheng Wei and Amirudin Jamal - that pounded round the Mondo track and set a new national record of 39.24sec.
But it was still not good enough for them to get their hands on the elusive gold medal, with the Thais clearly a class apart, finishing in 38.99 to win their 24th 4x100m relay event in 28 editions of the SEA Games. Indonesia took home bronze with a 39.32 effort.
This was the fourth successive silver for Singapore in the event and Yeo, 28, became emotional halfway through the interview.
"We set out to get the gold, but we ended up with silver," the 2011 SEA Games 100m silver medallist said.
"In the process, we broke the national record, and it isn't easy to do it with a 0.20s wind difference..."
His voice trailed off, as his nose suddenly turned red and he began sniffling.
"No complaints," he said, composing himself.
"We gave our all. At every competition, with the flag on our chests, we give everything we have.
"But we just lost to a better team. Congrats to Thailand. They were just faster."
The second-place finish marked the end of an era for the current relay team.
Yeo, Amirudin, Lee and Elfi Mustapa, who pulled his hamstring in the individual 200m heats on Wednesday morning, will all hang up their spikes before the next Games in Malaysia in 2017.
Amirudin, the team's anchor who won bronze in the 100m at the 2013 Myanmar Games, said: "I almost cried inside (the changing room).
"This is my last SEA Games and I really wanted to end it on a high, and a new record and a gold medal would have been fantastic.
"But sometimes the fairy-tale ending just doesn't happen. That's the sad truth."
Singapore Athletics president Tang Weng Fei saluted the team's efforts.
"Did you know their time of 39.24 would have won them the gold at any of the previous 27 SEA Games? That's all I have to say," the oil trader said.
When asked if he was worried the relay team would not be as competitive in the future without their four long-serving stalwarts, Tang disagreed.
"I appreciate their contributions to Singapore athletics over the years, but retirement is inevitable in sports," he said.
"We have a good bunch of young sprinters we can rely on.
"Calvin will be leading the way, but we also have Naqib Asmin (20), Khairyll Tumadi (22), Timothy Ong (20) and Donovan Chan (20), who are all talented sprinters and will be our next generation of relay runners."
For Thai sprinter Jirapong Meenapra, the relay triumph was the only bright spot of an otherwise wretched Games.
The triple sprint champion (100m, 200m and 4x100m) from 2013 had cockily predicted an easy defence of all his titles, but failed to medal in the 100m and picked up only the bronze in the 200m.
"The first four days, I feel no good," he said, in halting English.
"I competed in China last week (at the Asian Track and Field Championships in Wuhan), so I think I needed four or five days for my muscles to recover. I was tired.
"Today, I'm 100 per cent. Easy, easy.
"I just want to forget the 100m and 200m, and look forward to the next competition."
Thai sprint legend Suchart Chairsuvaparb, a member of Thailand's athletics technical committee, predicted Singapore would one day triumph in the relay.
"Today, the top four teams ran 39-something," the 1978 Asian Games 100m champion told The New Paper.
"This has never happened at the SEA Games before. Everybody is improving and I'm really surprised by how fast Singapore's runners are.
"I'm sure one day they will win the relay gold."
Meanwhile, the women's 4x100m relay team of Veronica Shanti Pereira, Wendy Enn, Dipna Lim-Prasad and Smirti Menon were pipped to the bronze medal by Malaysia, after a photo-finish saw the two teams clock the same time of 45.41.
Thailand came out on top in 44.27, with Vietnam (44.27) second.
The Republic's women, though, can take solace from the fact their time smashed their month-old national record of 46.44, set at the Taiwan Open.
"Did you know their time of 39.24 would have won them the gold at any of the previous 27 SEA Games? That’s all I have to say."
- Singapore Athletics president Tang Weng Fei, on the men’s 4x100m relay team comprising Gary Yeo, Lee Cheng Wei, Calvin Kang and Amirudin Jamal