KUALA LUMPUR: The brand new Mondo track at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil, similar to the one used at the Olympics in London in 2012 and Rio de Janeiro is raising the excitement level for the sprint battles in the SEA Games.
The blue running track, just like in Rio, has proven lucky for national runner Khairul Hafiz Jantan who took the 200m by storm in 20.90s during the Malaysian Open, smashing the nearly half-century old national record of 20.92s set by Tan Sri Dr M. Jegathesan in the 1968 Mexico Olympics.
In the previous Singapore Games, six track records fell but none in the sprints in which Filipino stars Eric Cray and Kayla Richardson took the men’s and women’s 100m titles while the 200m honours went to Vietnam’s Le Trong Hinh and Singapore’s Shanti Pereira respectively.
The 19-year-old Khairul Hafiz clearly likes the track and is looking forward to his Games debut and to race his rivals including Cray and Thailand’s Jirapong Meenapra who won the 100m in 2013.
“This track is very new and is of the same standard as the tracks used abroad for international meets and is better and more comfortable compared to the old tracks.
“I feel this track is very good to record the fastest time. I hope to do the best at the SEA Games this time,” he told Bernama.
The Melaka-born sprinter also holds the national record of 10.18s. Filipino-American Cray has a best of 10.25s posted in the Singapore Games and Jirapong’s fastest ever is 10.31s.
The last time a Malaysian claimed the men’s 100m crown was in 2003 through Nazmizan Muhammad with a time of 10.48s in Hanoi.
Malaysian Athletics Federation (MAF) president Datuk Karim Ibrahim said the national squad should seize advantage of the fast track and home ground to return their personal bests and finish among the medal winners.
“Everyone is telling that this is a fast track and they are looking forward to do better timings and more records. The athletes have two Mondo tracks, one at the National Stadium and the other at the training ground at the National Sports Council, so there is no reason for them to do badly,
“It will take a wait of another 20 years to have the SEA Games in Malaysia, this is the right time for them to give their best.”
Sprints coach M. Balamurugan said his charges were comfortable with the new track and they were confident of performing well.
Jad Adrian Washif, head of strength and endurance at the National Sports Institute, said a harder track was more ideal for sprints than middle or long distance events.
“Theoretically, for competitions, a harder surface is good for sprinters while a softer surface is good for distance runners. For training purposes, softer surface like the training track is always better for all athletes, regardless of events,” he said.
The athletics programme is scheduled from Aug 22-26. -- BERNAMA