NATIONAL walker Teoh Boon Lim returned from a six-year absence to bag the gold in a drama-filled men’s 20km walk outside His Majesty the King’s 80th Birthday Anniversary Stadium yesterday.
And as promised, Yuan Yufang who pulled out of the 5,000m race at the half-way mark on Friday to save her energy for yesterday’s 20km walk, delivered gold in the women’s category.
Boon Lim, who turned to coaching after winning the gold in the 2001 KL Games, was persuaded to return to active competition by his wife, Woo Siew Sien, early this year.
“This win is a reward for my family,” said Boon Lim. “After six years, I would not have returned without my family’s support. I also need to thank (Yuan) Yufang, who agreed to coach me on my comeback trail.
“After regaining the SEA Games gold, my next target is to win at the ATF (Asian Track and Field) and Asian Games competitions. I feel I can stay strong for another three or four years.”
But two-time champion Mohd Shahrulhaizy Abdul Rahman failed to make it a 1-2 for Malaysia. He was disqualified less than 2km from the finish line.
Despite repeated pleas by the Malaysian coaches and officials to take it easy, Shahrulhaizy, who was already on two cautions, chose to chase down Boon Lim. The 27-year-old managed to close the gap to seven seconds and was gaining pace when he picked up his third booking for floating and was thrown out.
Shahrulhaizy was devastated after choosing to go for personal glory instead of playing it safe for a silver backfired.
He said: “I am sore over the first two cautions. The Indonesian walker (Kristian Tobung) got away from the rest of the pack early on, which forced Boon Lim and myself to quicken our pace.
“Although we caught up, I was already on two cautions and got penalised when I felt that I had the pace to overtake Boon Lim in the final 2km.”
Tobung took the silver on 1’32:57, more than two minutes behind Boon Lim. Another Indonesian, Indra, took bronze in 1’35:45.
The peerless Yufang nailed her sixth SEA Games gold and the fifth in the women’s 20km walk in 1’41:47.
Such was her dominance that silver medallist Darwati of Indonesia trailed in almost one kilometre behind to finish in 1’43:51. Myanmar’s Lar Nve Saw Mar took the bronze in 1’46:28.
“To win in Korat, I had to train seriously and did not even see my baby (Li Xiaomo), who I left with my mother back in Hubei,” said the 31-year-old Yufang, who is a mother of two.
“I could not go for the Games record (of 1’39.25 set in Hanoi 2003) because the heat was unbearable. I have no intention to slow down yet and will continue to compete for as long as I am needed.”
The other Malaysian in the women’s race, 16-year-old debutant Yap Kwee Kee, clocked 2’00:41 to finish last in the six-competitor field.