KUALA LUMPUR: He was only ranked fifth among the competitors, but Jonathan Wong Kar Gee upset the odds to win the silver medal in the men’s long jump T12 (visual impairment) event at the World Para Athletics Championships in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
It was also his first world meet but the Sabahan kept his nerves for a season-best leap of 7.06m at the Dubai Club for People with Determination Stadium.
The lanky Jonathan, who has a personal best of 7.22m, recorded 6.83m in his first jump but improved with jumps of 6.95m, 6.90m, 6.80m, 7.06m and 6.93m in the next five jumps.
A total of eight athletes took part in the event which was won by Saliev Doniyor of Uzbekistan with a leap of 7.44m. That mark erased the 13-year-old championships record of 7.19m set by Hilton Longenhoven of South Africa in Assen, Holland, in 2006.
Doniyor’s effort was just three centimetres short of the world record of 7.47m set by Matthias Schroederof Germany in Berlin, Germany, in 2009.
Kamil Aliyev of Azerbaijan bagged the bronze with 7.00m.
The 28-year-old Jonathan, who has a genetic visual problem diagnosed when he was just eight, was elated at his efforts.
“I never expected to win silver as I was a bit nervous against the best long jumpers in the world.
“But I stayed calm as I was already in second place after my second jump, ” said Jonathan.
“The gold was out of my reach as the Uzbekistan athlete had cleared 7.44m in his first jump. So I knew I had a good chance to win silver but I needed to beat the seven-metre mark. I was happy with the 7.06m in my fifth jump which ensured me a medal.
“It feels nice to deliver the first medal for Malaysia and also the first medal for my state in the world meet, ” said Jonathan, who won gold in the Handisport Open World Grand Prix Para Athletic Championships in Paris in September with a jump of 7.03m.
Another Malaysian athlete, Mohd Ashraf Mohd Haisham took part in the men’s 1500m T46 (amputation) and clocked 4:26.30 to finish 14th among the 15 who competed.
The timing was slower than his personal best of 4:24.73, which he did en route to gold at the Asean Para Games in Kuala Lumpur in 2017.
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