GRACE Wong Xiu Mei is set to bring cheer to women’s athletics at the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games.
This is because the Sarawakian is the favourite to win the hammer gold. She is the top-ranked athlete in South-East Asia based on her national record of 60.99m, which she set at the Jeollanam-do Track and Field Athletics Championships in Jeolla City, South Korea, in April.
The 17-year-old Grace, a bronze medallist with a throw of 53.80m at the Singapore Games in 2015, has improved by leaps and bounds. Grace’s national mark is better than the Games record of 56.57m set by Mingkamon Koomphon of Thailand in Singapore two years ago.
In athletics, Malaysia have targeted only six golds from the 45 at stake.
A total of 28 Malaysian women will be competing in the Aug 19-30 Games and Grace is the best bet to deliver the gold.
The five other golds are expected to come from the men’s team. Sprinter Khairul Hafiz Jantan, high jumper Nauraj Singh Randhawa, Muhd Irfan Shamsuddin (discus), Muhd Hakimi Ismail (triple jump) and Rayzam Shah Wan Sofian (110m hurdles) are the potential gold medallists.
At the Singapore Games, Malaysia only returned home with three golds in athletics through Nauraj, Irfan and Hakimi.
Now, Grace hopes to end Malaysia’s gold drought in women’s athletics since the 2011 Palembang Games. Then, the Malaysian women won three golds through Noraseela Khalid (400m hurdles), Tan Song Hwa (hammer) and Roslinda Samsu (pole vault).
Having gone through two intensive training stints in South Korea’s Mokpo, Grace believes she can deliver the gold.
“The training in South Korea has helped to build my self-confidence and strength. I’m in a better condition to fight for the gold,” she said.
Grace wants to win the gold to dedicate to her mother Lina Awaru, of Papua New Guinea, who died of illness in April this year.
“I was training in South Korea when my mother passed away in Kuching. It was a sad moment for me,” said Grace.
National coach Gu Yuan believes Grace has the ability to outshine the older and experienced athletes to win the gold.
“Grace has done well in competitions this year. I am certain that she will deliver one of the six golds at the SEA Games,” said the Chinese coach.