Thai high-jumper equals Asian Games record, 1st Ld-Writethru

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VIENTIANE, Laos (AP) — University student Noengruthai Chaipech won gold in the women’s high jump Monday with an Asian record-equaling height that extended Thailand’s lead in the medal standings.

Noengruthai Chaipech 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 told that she had also reached the Asian mark, she looked incredulous and blurted: “Really? I don’t believe it. Oh I am so happy.”

Noengruthai’s victory raised Thailand’s gold medal tally to 37, with Vietnam in second place at 28 and Singapore third with 25.

“I was quiet nervous at the beginning of the competition. I couldn’t even breath, 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 gold in women’s triple jump for the country’s second win in athletics, adding to the two golds in golf and one each in shooting, cycling, petanque and Muay Thai, or kickboxing, won earlier Monday.

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.

Later Monday, Singapore plays Vietnam and Malaysia meets Laos in the football semifinals.

Also Monday, six gold medals will be decided in swimming, a sport traditionally dominated by Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines.

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