Relay team set new national record
Singapore 4x100m quartet finish ahead of China at Asian Grand Prix leg. -ST
SINGAPORE - The Land of Smiles brought huge grins to Singapore's 4x100m men's sprint relay team on Wednesday when they rewrote their year-long national record at the Asian Grand Prix in Chonburi.
Winning the "A" final in 39.45 seconds, the quartet of Muhammad Elfi, Gary Yeo, Lee Cheng Wei and Mohammad Amirudin improved on the previous mark of 39.58 clocked in the same competition held at Kanchanaburi, Thailand, last year.
Said coach Melvin Tan: "The boys ran their hearts out today. They were really fired up before the race and I thought that we could come close to the national record.
"But they took it one step further and clocked a new record."
It was a sizeable scalp for the national sprinters as they beat China (39.79), Oman (39.82) and South-east Asian powerhouses Thailand (39.83).
Only Hong Kong, running in the "B" final, registered a faster time of 39.17 despite not being fast enough to qualify for the "A" final during the heats.
With their latest result, Singapore, who were silver medallists behind hosts Indonesia at the 2011 South-east Asia Games in Palembang, have emerged as top contenders at the upcoming edition in Myanmar.
Said second-leg runner Yeo, 26: "This makes us the team to beat in South-east Asia. All the other teams will be looking out for us, and they will want to beat us now."
Two years ago, both Singapore and Indonesia clocked 39.91 in the final in Palembang, but the gold went to the hosts, after they were judged to have won by a shoulder in a photo-finish.
That result, which left a sour note with the Singapore team, is now motivation fodder for them to keep chasing that elusive prize.
Said Tan: "We have six months to go before the SEA Games and we have to be very careful in our preparations.
"The other teams will not take this lying down. They will be looking for a comeback against us."
The coach credited Wednesday's record run to a smoother baton exchange and all the runners improving on their individual speed. He said: "Thank God everything went well with the baton exchange on Thursday."
"It was definitely smoother than our previous effort of 39.58 in (the Asian Grand Prix first leg in) Bangkok."
The latest result is an encouraging sign for the squad, who started training full-time in January in pursuit of the SEA Games gold.
They are also moving closer to their other objective of sealing a berth at the World Championships in Moscow in August.
At the last of the three-legged Grand Prix this weekend in Colombo, Sri Lanka, they will have another chance to meet the 39.20 qualifying mark.
But Tan is playing down expectations ahead of the meet, saying: "We have had a good result here, but the race has taken up a lot from the boys and the race is only a few days away."
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