VIENTIANE, Laos (AP) — A Thai university student equaled the Asian Games record in women’s high jump at the Southeast Asian Games Monday, but confessed she was so nervous during the event she had trouble breathing.
Noengruthai Chaipech’s victory extended Thailand’s lead in the medal standings to 42, with Vietnam in second place at 31 and Singapore third with 27.
Noengruthai cleared 1.94 meters in her third and final attempt and was initially unaware she had equaled the Asian record, set by Sato Megumi of Japan at the 1990 Asian Games in Beijing.
“I broke the SEA Games record. I am so excited,” Noengruthai told The Associated Press, minutes after walking off the mat. When informed that she had also reached the Asian mark, she looked incredulous and blurted: “Really? I don’t believe it. Oh I am so happy!”
“I was quite nervous at the beginning of the competition. I couldn’t even breathe, but I relaxed afterward,” said Noengruthai, 27, a business administration student at Bangkok’s Siam University.
She said she started high jumping at the age of 13 when a teacher at school told her to concentrate on one sport.
“I used to run 100 meters, 200, 400, triple, long jump, everything,” said Noengruthai.
Her parents, who live in Thailand’s Nong Khai town, across the Mekong River that forms the border between Vientiane and Thailand, had driven to watch their daughter’s performance at the biennial games, which end Dec. 18.
Noengruthai cleared 1.70, 1.75, 1.80 and 1.84 meters easily. It took two attempts to jump 1.88 and three to jump 1.91. By then, her nearest rivals from Thailand and Vietnam were stranded at 1.88. She went for 1.94 and on first two attempts brushed against the bar. With the sun blazing behind her, she ran slowly for her third and sailed over smoothly, leaving the bar untouched.
Thailand’s Thitima Muangjan took the gold in women’s triple jump and its men’s and women’s teams won the 4X400 relays for the country’s three other wins in athletics Monday. Thailand also won two golds each in golf and petanque, and one each in shooting, cycling and Muay Thai, or kickboxing.
Natthanan Junkrajang — a star of the 2007 SEA Games in swimming — won the 400 meters individual medley for Thailand.
But Singapore and Malaysia dominated the other five swimming events Monday.
Singapore’s Lim Xiang Qui won the 50 meters freestyle in a meet record time of 25.82 seconds and Tao Li won the 200 meters butterfly, also in record time of 2:13.49 minutes.
Daniel Bego of Malaysia won the men’s 200 meters freestyle and 200 meters butterfly, setting a Games record in the first at 1:49.22.
Indonesia won the 400 meters men’s medley relay.
For Vietnam, Truong Thanh Hang won the women’s 800 meters and Nguyen Dinh Cuong won the men’s 800 meters. It also won a gold in the 10-meter running target mixed team event in women’s shooting, and one each in cycling and Muay Thai.
Later Monday, Singapore plays Vietnam and Malaysia meets Laos in the football semifinals.