Malaysian fight back for petanque glory
Fueangsanit, 20, and Hafizuddin, 22, recover from shaky starts to grab gold
Petanque may be an alien sport to many Singaporeans, but that didn't stop the stands at the Padang from being packed for the SEA Games gold-medal matches yesterday.
Despite Singapore not making the finals, there was a healthy crowd of both local and foreign fans witnessing regional exponents of a sport born in France.
Both the men's and women's final were played simultaneously and side-by-side and both featured shaky starts and dramatic fightbacks.
Thai Nantawan Fueangsanit bagged her first SEA Games gold in the singles event (she won the gold in the triples in 2013) after defeating Cambodia's Un Sreya 13-8 in the final.
The 20-year-old dropped just one point in the last nine ends, showing nerves of steel to storm back from 7-0 down.
The Cambodian consistently managed to position her boules close to the jack, but Fueangsanit somehow managed to knock off the opposing boules on her way to victory.
With the score at 11-7 in the last end, all eyes were on Sreya, who was staring down the barrel.
But the Cambodian missed the target, giving Fueangsanit the win which sent the Thai contingent wild.
With the gold medal around her neck and the Thai flag draped across her shoulders, Fueangsanit later said: "I'm very pleased with my performance and I'm happy to win.
"Even when I was 7-0 down I didn't get anxious or nervous. I just focused on winning."
The men's final featured another comeback story, this time from Malaysia's Muhd Hafizuddin Mat Daud.
The 22-year-old - who picked up the sport five years ago after encouragement from his brother - suffered from a nervous start against Cambodia's Chhoeun Thong which saw him miss the target completely on a few occasions.
But, inspired by his team's cheers, Hafizuddin clawed his way back and levelled the score at 5-5.
From then on, he never lost control, claiming gold after a 13-6 victory as the Malaysian crowd broke into song.
Hafizuddin was quick to credit to his team and coach Syed Akil.
He said: "Even when I was feeling down (after going behind 5-0), my friends and coach kept saying I could do it for them and for Malaysia.
"My coach kept telling me to relax and enjoy myself...
"I knew I had support from everyone I needed, even back in Malaysia. They are always there to support me."