Ailing Yufang again proves she's streets ahead of rivals

WALKER Yuan Yufang spent two sleepless nights at the National Heart Institute ward in Kuala Lumpur last week pondering whether she should compete in Vietnam. 

Her decision to make the trip to Hanoi barely a week after undergoing a minor heart surgery was rewarded with a gold medal in the women's 20km walk yesterday. 

To make her comeback story more remarkable, she won the event in style, rewriting the Games record by more than three minutes. 

Yufang stamped her mark as the unrivalled walk champion in the region, winning the race in 1'39:25 to erase her own previous Games record of 1'42:55, which she set in the 2001 KL Games. 

Yufang even had time to make a victory lap, pose for photographers and answer questions from the media before silver medallist Tersiana Riwu came home in 1'44:05. 

HEART OF GOLD: Just nine days after undergoing an angiogram for irregular heart-beat, Yuan Yufang won the 20km walk at the SEA Games in Hanoi yesterday. She took the gold in 1'39:25 -3 ½ minutes better than the Games record she set in 2001. Malaysia took seven more golds yesterday, bringing the tally to 37. STARpic by S.S. KANESAN

“I knew all along that nobody could beat me at the South-East Asian level. Even when I was hospitalised, there wasn't a doubt that I would win here if I made the trip,” said Yufang. 

“I felt a slight pain in my chest at the beginning but I managed to block out the pain and totally concentrated on winning.” 

Yufang also thanked all those who stood behind her decision to compete despite the health scare. 

She was down to compete in two run events in the Vietnam Games - the 5,000m and 10,000m.  

But she heeded her doctors' advice on not over-exerting herself and chose to concentrate on just the walk. 

“Certain quarters have questioned my motive in competing as seeking for more money and self glory. It is definitely not true,” said Yufang. 

“Every athlete, who trains hard for a particular competition, will do his or her best to compete and improve on the time in that competition. It is the same with me. I started preparing for three SEA Games events from more than a year ago.” 

Yufang agreed that it was time Malaysia groomed another woman long distance walker-runner to be her successor. 

There is an over-reliance on the 27-year-old mother of one to produce results in international competitions. 

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