Thai sprint king Jirapong says he will win it all
'No contest' is how Thai defending champion Jirapong sums up today's century sprint
He's cool, calm and confident.
But then again, Thailand's Jirapong Meenapra, 22, is the reigning South-east Asia (SEA) Games sprint king.
He won both 100m and 200m, and 4x100m relay titles at the Myanmar Games 18 months ago, and is looking for another sprint treble in Singapore.
The skinny Bangkok University undergraduate, who clocked four of the best five times by any runner in this region in 2014, including a blistering 10.31sec twice, will begin his quest with the 100m event today.
But, he wasn't even bothered to train a day before the blue riband race, seen as the most glamorous track and field event.
"I think, and I feel, no contest," he told The New Paper in halting English, when we met at the Swissotel where the Thai athletics team are put up.
"Relax. Easy, easy," he said.
Jirapong admitted there are good runners from Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines in his field, but says he doesn't like to waste time fretting about competitors, or even achievements.
When TNP asked him whether he could better countryman Anat Ratanapol's regional record of seven individual SEA Games sprint medals, he said: "For me, it's only: On your mark, set, go.
"In sprint, thinking too much is no good.
"It's 100 per cent about feeling."
And he says he's feeling good.
When informed that the National Stadium's roof will be closed for the races, he nodded his approval: "No wind, I'm ok... I like to run when it's hot."
It seems Thai athletics officials also have full confidence in Jirapong snagging a gold today.
For they haven't bothered putting a second runner in the 100m event.
Suwon Ruttanapon, the 21-year-old who clocked a 10.41-sec time last year, has only recently recovered from a thigh injury and is being saved for the 4x100m relay.
"Save energy," Jirapong said, with a smile.
Despite the confidence of the Thais, Singapore's Amirudin Jamal says the winner of the 100m race is not a cut-and-dried issue.
"His form this year is not so fantastic," said the 28-year-old.
"The field at this year's SEA Games is very competitive. So I don't think Jirapong is definitely the clear favourite."
When asked if he or Singapore's other representative, Calvin Kang, can pull off a surprise in the evening's final, Amirudin said: "I'm treating my heat in the morning as a final, because it's a very difficult heat.
"After that, we can talk about other expectations."
Indeed, Amirudin will have to race alongside the likes of Jirapong, Indonesia's Iswandi (the 2013 silver medallist), Philippines' US-based runner Eric Cray (who ran a 10.33sec in April) in his heats.
The top three from each of the two heats, plus the two fastest finishers, will qualify for the final.
Kang has Indonesian Boby Yaspi (PB: 10.41) and Vietnam's Le Trong Hinh (PB: 10.48) as the rivals in his heat.
100M SPRINTERS TO LOOK OUT FOR
- Jirapong Meenapra (Tha), PB: 10.31sec
- Eric Cray (Phi), PB: 10.33
- Iswandi (Ind), PB: 10.46
- Amirudin Jamal (Sin), PB: 10.46
- Yahya Izzudin (Mas), PB: 10.48
- Calvin Kang (Sin), PB: 10.48