Afiq’s pole vault double hopes washed away

Mohd Afiq Alham's hopes of breaking the National Schools Sports Council (MSSM) Track and Field Championships record of 4.74m was dashed when it rained. - GC TAN/ The Star

ALOR SETAR: Johor pole vaulter Muhammad Afiq Alham’s hopes of a double – breaking the National Schools Sports Council (MSSM) Track and Field Championships record and qualify for the Youth Olympic Games – were washed away by rain at the Darulaman Stadium here.

The 17-year-old SMK Tun Hussein Onn Kluang student already had the boys’ Open category pole vault gold medal in the bag on Monday after clearing 4.65m with ease to be the last man standing.

Just as Afiq had the bar raised to 4.74m – 1cm higher than the two-year-old MSSM record held by fellow Johorean Iskandar Alwi – the skies opened up.

Realising it was his final chance at cracking the meet record, Afiq insisted on making a jump in the wet and slippery conditions.

He was unsuccessful in his first attempt at the 4.74m barrier, and was then persuaded to abandon his quest by his coach Mustapha Kamal and the athletics officials on duty.

Afiq, who has a personal best of 4.90m, had planned to use the MSSM meet to beat the Youth Olympics’ 5.00m qualifying mark.

“It’s a shame that I missed the chances to break the record and qualify for the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China, in August. I was in good condition coming into this meet and would have beaten the existing MSSM record easily if not for the rain.

“It was hot and sunny when the event began, but the sky became dark and it started to rain just as the bar was being raised to the new record level. My coach advised me to stop and not risk injury as I was unable to grip the slippery pole tightly,” lamented a disappointed Afiq.

“I still have one final chance to qualify for the Youth Olympics ... when I compete at the Asian Youth Athletics Championships in Bangkok in a fortnight’s time.”

Perak’s Muhammad Rahimin Nasir (3.60m) was a distant second while Johor’s Muhamad Ashraf Abu (3.40m) took the bronze.

Sarawak’s discus thrower Grace Wong equalled her two-gold feat from last year’s MSSM in the girls’ Under-15 category on Monday.

The 14-year-old Sarikei High School student first rewrote the meet record en route to winning the discus gold in the morning session.

She shattered her own 34.96m record set last year with a hefty 37.38m effort in the event which was rescheduled from Sunday night due to rain.

Grace was back on the field in the evening session to bag the shot putt gold with a 12.80m throw.

In both the events, Penang’s Pavithraa Devi Jayaindran finished behind Grace to take silver.

Terengganu’s Tuan Juliana Hassan prevented a total domination by the Sarawak athletes in the girls’ Under-15 field events by capturing the high jump gold medal.

Her 1.60m leap was enough to secure victory ahead of Sarawak’s Then Yi Chin, who won the silver on count back ahead of Johor’s Chia Lee Mei after both had cleared 1.53m.

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