Singapore's hurdling legend offers 22-year-old advice

SINGAPORE - The advice was direct, but friendly - you don't say you jump over hurdles, you run over them.

It was a first meeting between two hurdling queens from different eras, and they hit it off immediately.

There was a reunion for Singapore's track and field greats on Friday night at Mirza Namazie's sprawling house at King Albert Park.

But former SEA Games hurdles champion Heather Siddons-Merican had a lot of time for 22-year-old Dipna Lim-Prasad, national record holder for the 400m hurdles (60.36sec) and 200m (24.36sec).

Still statuesque at 64, 1970s pin-up Heather and Dipna were soon chatting like long-lost friends.

Heather did correct Dipna when the youngster talked about jumping over hurdles, and the former champion explained: "Maybe it's just the way she says it, or maybe it's subconscious.

"But for me, hurdlers never jump over the hurdles because then you spend too much time in the air and you can't make up time in the air."

Dipna, who will fly the flag for Singapore at next month's South-east Asia (SEA) Games in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, took that advice in good spirit.

The two women looked at newspaper clippings and photographs of Heather's spectacular runs and accomplishments.

There was one particular photo stood out.

It was of Heather standing tall at the top of the podium with the terraces of the National Stadium behind her jam-packed with people, witnessing her crowning moment as then-president Benjamin Sheares awarded her the 100m hurdles gold medal at the 1973 South-east Asian Peninsular Games - the precursor to the SEA Games.

"I'm really inspired," said Dipna, who is aiming to break the 60-second barrier in the 400m hurdles. "I really want to do well this year and be in that position too in two years' time when Singapore hosts the SEA Games.

"It was really sweet of Heather to bring all the newspapers clippings and photos to share with us."

Heather was 24 and a mother of two when she won the 100m and 200m hurdling events at the 1973 SEAP Games.

Not since 1975 has Singapore produced a female hurdles champion at the SEA Games, but Heather backs Dipna to do well this year.

"She's got a good height - tall, but not too tall that she approaches the hurdles too close and has to chop her strides," said Heather, who is visiting from the Un ited States, where she has settled down.

"She's got the speed which I didn't have. My advantage was my hurdling technique. So if she can perfect her hurdling, I think she can achieve so much more."

Heather had one last secret weapon to offer Dipna before the evening ended.

Laughing, she quipped: "Boiled potato!

"I remember eating one entire boiled potato before a race against Marina Chin (Heather's big rival from Malaysia).

"I felt so energetic after that I won the race!"

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