THE Malaysian contingent reached their gold medal target last night. And gold No. 64 came from an unlikely source snooker.
After finishing empty-handed at the last three SEA Games, the pint-sized Moh Keen Ho finally delivered the first gold medal for Malaysia in the sport in eight years in the very last final held at the Sima Thani Hotel in Korat last night.
After falling short in two finals over the past one week, Keen Ho finally came good in the men's snooker singles to beat Thailand's Noppadol Sangnil 4-1 (52-21, 61-56, 62-25, 31-63, 86-29).
Keen Ho trailed in all the first three frames but displayed nerves of steel to bounce back each time to take a 3-0 lead.
But there were fears that the Malaysian would suffer a meltdown, akin to the doubles final when he partnered John Yong Kien Foot to race to a comfortable 2-0 lead before losing 2-3, when Noppadol narrowed the score to 1-3.
The Thai also led 29-22 in the fifth frame but that was as far as he got as Keen Ho turned on the screws to run away for an 86-29 win.
Tears flowed freely with National Sports Council (NSC) director general, Datuk Zolkples Embong, among those who could not control their emotions when Keen Ho won.
I did not realise that Malaysia's gold tally stood at 63 when I competed in the final. I only realised that when everybody started waving the number 64 after my match, said Keen Ho.
I am also happy to finally get it right at the very end of the snooker programme. It is a huge relieve to win after coming up short in the earlier two finals.
Keen Ho had earlier upstaged Thailand's world amateur snooker champion Atthasit Mahitthi 4-2 in the semi-finals. Atthasit took the bronze medal, beating John 4-1 in the playoff.
The 22-year-old Keen Ho is the son of the current national billiards player Moh Loon Hong, himself a double SEA Games champion in Manila 1991 and Chiang Mai 1995.
Team manager Melvin Chua cited Keen Ho's win as a breakthrough victory for Malaysian snooker.
He lacks big tournament exposure as he only competes in about two or three major tournaments a year. That was why he was unable to find the right rhythm earlier in the week, he said.
But tonight's gold medal after coming out unsuccessful from Manila and Hanoi would really boost Keen Ho's confidence. I am certain that this is just the start of more big wins to come from him.
The last time Malaysia won a SEA Games gold in snooker was in Brunei 1999 through Sam Chong and Ooi Chin Kay in the doubles.