PETALING JAYA: Thirteen is an unlucky number for most. But not for triple jumper Ngew Sin Mei. She is aiming for at least a 13m leap at the Vietnam SEA Games.
In order to win a medal in the triple jump in Hanoi, I have to clear above 13m. Anything below 13 will not be good enough, said Sin Mei who holds the national record of 13.30m, which was achieved in the Thum Open in Germany in July.
The 13.30m jump was also her qualifying ticket to Vietnam.
But things do seem unfavourable as she chases the 13m mark. Consider the facts:
SEA Games defending champion Thailand's Wacharee Rittiwat is the hot favourite to retain her gold medal, especially after clearing 13.54m to finish fourth in the Asian Championships in Manila two months ago.
The Thai champion cleared 13.46m en route to the gold medal in Kuala Lumpur two years ago. The leap remains in the books as the SEA Games record. And the the 28-year-old Wacharee, who has completely dominated the event since the 1997 Jakarta Games, is now looking for her fourth consecutive gold.
The women's triple jump was introduced in the 1995 Chiang Mai Games.
There are also others, like Vietnam's Nguyen Van Binc and Phan Thi Tu Lan, who won the silver in the 2001 KL Games with a jump of 13.09m, who can deny Sin Mei.
Sin Mei also has a right ankle injury, picked up during the 2001 Asean Schools Camp.
I should have been more careful when I was younger.
The pain surfaced during training and competitions since then, but I did not bandage the ankle initially and it became worse, said the 20-year-old. I have learned my lesson, I bandage it now and the pain has receded. It's nearly healed completely, she said.
And the cold weather is not to Sin Mei's liking, either.
The officials I spoke to predict that temperatures will fall below 20°C. I have never competed in such conditions before. The conditions were even warmer during the training stints in Germany earlier this year.
I am quite slim, so it's going to be difficult to bring out my best if the conditions are cold. I have to keep really warm between jumps, said the 20-year-old.
There is a plus side, though. Sin Mei has shown tremendous improvement in the past two years.
Two years ago, my best jump was 11.67. Now, can do above 13m. I have to thank my coach Yury Sotnikov who has been guiding me for the past two years, said the Sin Mei, who is also down to compete in the long jump where her personal best is 6.20m.
I do not think it is good enough to win a medal, said Sin Mei.
The favourites for the long jump in Hanoi are Thi Tu Lan and Philippines's Lerma Elmira Bulautin Gabito and Marestella Torres.
Gabito won the bronze medal in the Asian Championships clearing 6.50m while Torres was fourth with a jump of 6.34m.