KORAT, Dec 11 (Bernama) -- Lee Hup Wei won the men's high jump gold and Malaysia's reputation was restored on a day when the overall ten-gold medal target was never within reach.
Seven was all the Malaysian contingent could win after five days of competition at the 22,000-seater Main Stadium here, three short of the target the Malaysian Amateur Athletics Union (MAAU) had set out to achieve before coming here.
Only Hup Wei's win in the high jump with a clearance of 2.19m, way below his personal best of 2.24m, which he did at the Asian Championship in Jordan two months ago, brought the smiles back to the Malaysian camp. Especially after having lost the gold in Manila two years ago for the first time in the history of the SEA Games.
Roslinda Samsu's victory in the women's Pole vault with a height of 4.00m, successfully defending her title she won in the 2005 Manila Games, brought a semblance of respectability even though her winning height was lower than the 4.10m she did in Manila.
Hup Wei's gold and Roslinda's winning effort made it seven but it was still one less than the eight gold medals won at the 2005 SEA Games and when the counting is done, MAAU must now do some serious soul searching as they look towards the 2009 Games in Laos.
The defeat of Ngew Sin Mei in the women's triple jump today when so much hope was placed on her slender shoulders to retain her title, was a sign that things were not going Malaysia's way on the final day of competition.
The Kelantan-born jumper had cleared a wind assisted 13.75m on her fourth attempt to take the lead but only to see Thailand's Thitima Maunjan, bronze medallist at the previous SEA Games produced a giant effort in her final jump to clear 13.85m for the gold and a new SEA Games record bettering Sin Mei's attempt of 13.61m done in Manila.
"I am so devastated but I promise I will be back and train even harder. I want to qualify for the Beijing Olympics which means I need to clear 14.05m. It's within my reach," said Sin Mei.
M.Vadivellan, who was fancied for the gold in the men's 1,500m, found the Vietnamese Nguyen Dinh Cuong, the 800m gold medallist, just too strong for him and had to settle for the silver in 3:45.70secs for a new National record, bettering the old mark of 3:45.87secs held by A.Munusamy since 1997.
But it was the Thais who continued with their dominance in track and field with a 15-gold medal haul all in all.