SEA Games: We're counting on you, fans

There is pindrop silence, as a deathly quiet envelopes the arena.

Bodies of spectators stay ramrod stiff, with many craning their necks.

Automatically, all other events in the stadium come to a stop.

The world waits, a packed stadium anticipates, the eight protagonists do knee-lifts and simply stare at the finish, knowing that milliseconds could decide positions.


Because it is the blue riband event of any Games, and in a little over 10 seconds or less, after some 42 strides the fastest man in the world, continent or region will be decided.

Come June, our spanking new National Stadium will stage this scene.

And a South-east Asia (SEA) Games sprint king will be crowned.

After 22 years, Singaporeans will get to witness the SEA Games men's 100 metres final on home turf.

The last time it happened in Singapore - in June 1993 - the home fans went home disappointed.

On a wet day that lightened into a drizzle at the old National Stadium, two Singaporeans raised our hopes, then dampened our spirits.

Hamkah Afik and Hosni Muhamad were even touted as good outsiders for gold, but they finished out of the medals, the former finishing fourth in 10.65 seconds and Hosni sixth in 10.66.

Indonesia's Mardi Lestari (10.46) took gold and wrote his name in the record books.

Turn the clock back another 10 years when Singapore staged the Games, and it was a similar story.

With Thailand's mulitple sprint gold medallist Suchart Jaesuraparp in the line-up, gold was as good as gome.

He obliged in 10.59 seconds, but our duo's hopes melted in the sunny afternoon in 1983 as Haron Mundir (fourth in 10.80) and Tang Ngai Kin (seventh in 10.91) came home empty-handed.

Go back to 1973 when Singapore first staged the Games.

That was probably when the no-medal home hoodoo began.

Singapore's pride C. Kunalan had demonstrated in Rangoon in 1969 the "can do" spirit when he thwarted the challenge of the Malaysians, Thais and Burmese to strike gold in 10.5 seconds.

But the sprint king retired after the 1970 Asian Games and ran only the 4x400m relay, leaving his successor and sparring mate, Yeo Kian Chai, to do the honours.

Yeo was in the running, but only for half the race as he finished fourth behind the Thai duo of Anat Ratanapol and Jaesuraparp, and the little-known Mao Samphan from Khmer Republic.

That being the backdrop, what's in store for Singapore's sprinters in five months' time.

There is reason for optimism over medals in the race as suddenly Singapore seems to be spoilt for choice with a sprinkling of sprinting talent.

And they are already making a race among themselves as they bid to represent the country.

Gary Yeo, Amirudin Jamal, Calvin Kang, Elfi Mustapa and Naqib Asmin have thrown their hats into the ring for the two berths.

No doubt, they trail the Thai duo of Jirapong Meenapra and Sowan Ruttanapon with regard to personal-best times.

But in a straight-dash race where an explosive start can do wonders, anything can happen.

Yeo has made a plea (see S18), asking the Singapore Athletic Association and the various sports bodies to pull out all the stops and give the sprinters the support in the next few months.

So sports bodies take heed, for this could be the race of their lifetime.

Take heed too, Singapore fans.

For your presence, your throaty cheers, your support in any form, could make the difference between an also-ran and medallist - hopefully gold.

The atmosphere must be electrifying; so, fans, be there and make it special for our sprinters..and Singapore.

This article was first published on Jan 25, 2015.
Get The New Paper for more stories.