SEA Games: Sng chases new national record

SEA Games: Sng chases new national record
Michelle Sng, Singapore’s top female high jumper.

June 12 has been marked out on Michelle Sng's calendar.

It is the day when she aims to scale another peak, after two previous conquests.

Sng's goal is to break her national record during the women's high jump final at the 28th South-east Asia (SEA) Games, and she hopes it will be good enough for a medal, maybe even gold.

The primary school English teacher broke her own national record of 1.80 metres when she cleared 1.84m at the Philippines Open in March.

She had set the previous mark in 2006, when she was 19, and Sng does not want to wait that long for a new record.

"I just want to break the national record again at the SEA Games," she told The New Paper yesterday.

"I don't have a specific mark, as long as it's better than 1.84m, I would have met my target."

The 2015 SEA Games will be held here from June 5 to 16 and, as always, track and field will be the biggest event, with 46 gold medals on offer.

Singapore Athletics (SA) will field 74 athletes - the biggest group in the history of the Games, with the hosts only absent in the men and women's hammer throw events.

The track and field programme will be held at the magnificent new 55,000-capacity National Stadium at the Sports Hub and entry to the six-day event - June 6 & 7 and 9 to 12 - is free.

While usually popular, there are fears many Singaporeans will not be attracted to the cavernous facility for track and field, especially when the Republic has only one star in Zhang Guirong, the defending champion in the women's shot put and a hot favourite for gold.

Sng, who will be the Republic's first female high jumper at the Games since 1993, has a chance of rousing the Majulah Singapura if she does break her own record.

If so, it could be one of the most cherished medals by the hosts by Games' end.

The 27-year-old has been pushing herself hard, training six to seven times a week at the Kallang Practice Track with her coach Chan See Huey.

While 39 of the Republic's track and field athletes are currently competing at the two-day Taiwan Open, Sng opted to stay behind.

She will compete, instead, at the Macau Inter-city Invitational next week.

"My coach felt the Macau event would be better for me, because it's closer to the Games," the 1.72m-tall Sng explained.

"Training has been good. I've been working on my run-up recently, trying to make it consistent."

Sng will be keeping tabs on Taiwan, where the three medallists from the 2013 Games in Myanmar - Duong Thi Viet Anh (Vietnam), Wanida Boonwan (Thailand) and Pham Thi Diem (Vietnam) - are slated to compete.

Duong's gold-medal winning height in 2013 equalled Sng's national record of 1.84m - but the Singaporean refused to draw too much from that.

She said: "It is hard to base anything on the results from 2013, because that year saw the worst results in the last 10 years.

"It's also hard to gauge what (height) it would take to win the gold.

"I haven't heard anything about what my rivals have been clearing. After the Taiwan Open, I'll have a better idea."

CHERRY

Sng hopes the SEA Games will be the cherry on her impressive comeback story.

She quit the sport in 2010 because of a stress fracture in her shin, feeling at the time that she could not reach the high level that was expected of her.

The decision to quit surprised many because she was touted as the next big thing in local athletics after she broke Yu Long Nyu's 13-year-old record of 1.74m with an effort of 1.79m at an international junior meet in Beirut, Lebanon, in 2006.

She then improved on her record by one centimetre at the Asian Junior Championships in Macau later that year.

With Singapore hosting the Games this year after a 22-year absence, Sng was convinced by her coach to give it one more shot.

She returned to the sport in 2013 and now, with a new national record under her belt, she has set her sights on becoming Singapore's first female high jump medallist at the SEA Games.

"Clearing 1.90m is something I've been chasing for a long time," she said.

"Getting there depends on many things: the stadium conditions, my own physical condition, and luck as well.

"If everything comes together at the National Stadium next month, then who knows - it (gold) is possible."


This article was first published on May 15, 2015.
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