KUALA LUMPUR: The SEA Games are supposed to be all about Asean solidarity.
Even the motto for the 29th Kuala Lumpur SEA Games is “Rising Together”.
But it looks like there is already a controversy brewing, with the Athletics Association of the Philippines crying foul over the SEA Games athletics programme.
The Philippines are up in arms over the fact that the heats and finals of the men’s 100m and 400m hurdles will be held on the same day – Aug 22 – at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil.
This has left their star athlete, Eric Shauwn Cray, in a fix as he’s down to compete in both races.
Eric won gold in both events at the Singapore Games two years ago.
He clocked 10.25 seconds to win the blue riband event and broke the 400m hurdles SEA Games record by clocking 49.40 in Singapore.
The men’s 100m heats on Aug 22 will begin at 3.30pm and the men’s 400m hurdles heats are supposed to start 30 minutes later.
The final of the 400m hurdles is scheduled at 8.20pm and the 100m final at 9.40pm.
The Philippines’ athletics head coach Sean Guevara is furious with the scheduling of the athletics programme.
“We are concerned for our athlete competing in the same event on the same day in the space of 30 minutes in the heats and just one hour apart in 100m and 400m finals,” said Sean.
“The Athletics Association of the Philippines had requested for a change or adjustment to the schedule for the men’s 400m hurdles and 100m. But the organising committee did not take any action.
“I don’t want to think that there is someone who deliberately designed the schedule. I hope there’s none.”
Eric, who is based in Texas, the United States, is sure to start as the favourite to win the 400m hurdles after clocking 49.57 to bag gold in the 22nd Asian Championships in Bhubaneswar, India, last month.
The SEA Games athletics programme will be from Aug 19-26 and the Malaysian Athletics Federation (MAF) can still make changes to the two events to be held on different days.
The athletics programme will begin with the men and women’s marathon on Aug 19 while track and field events are held from Aug 22-26.
Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) secretary-general Datuk Low Beng Choo confirmed that the Philippines Olympic Committee (POC) appealed for the schedule to be changed but “the Athletics Technical Delegate turned it down”.