Manshahar not running scared

Can Malaysia's sprinters complete a hat-trick of the century dash by winning the coveted 100m gold at next month's Hanoi Sea Games?

At the 2017 Kuala Lumpur Sea Games, Khairul Hafiz Jantan, aka Speedy Jantan, ended Malaysia's 14-year wait by capturing the 100m after clocking 10.38s.

Two years later in the Manila edition, Haiqal Hanafi won the blue-riband event for Malaysia with a time of 10.35s.

For the upcoming games, Russel Alexander Nasir Taib and Arsyad Md Saat will lead Malaysia's charge and inevitably there will be expectation on them to continue the country's 100m success.

They both clocked 10.46s to qualify for the Hanoi Sea Games.

However, their times won't put them among the front runners for the Sea Games gold.

Indonesian Lalu Muhammad Zohri, the fastest man in Southeast Asia after clocking a blistering 10.03s in 2019, is expected to run in the Sea Games this time. He skipped the 2019 edition to focus on the Tokyo Olympics.

And Filipino speed demon Eric Cray is hell bent on making up for lost time. The 33-year-old is out for redemption after suffering the ignominy of being disqualified in the 2019 Sea Games for false starts.

The emergence of other young guns in the region also poses a threat to the Malaysian sprinters.

Watch out for teenager Puriphon Boonsorn who ran a scorching 10.19s to smash the Thai national record last month and Singapore's Marc Brian Louis who set 10.39s last December.

All this has made them contenders for the 100m medal.

However, national athletics coach Manshahar Abdul Jalil is unfazed by what the rivals are doing.

He still has faith in a golden show from Malaysian runners in the 100m.

"Based on our sprinters' times, we are not the favourites but that doesn't mean we can't win the gold medal," said Manshahar.

"Khairul and Haiqal achieved it in the 2017 and 2019 Sea Games.

"Anything can happen during a race, especially in sprint events. In 2017, Eric Cray was the huge favourite based on his form but Khairul managed to create an upset.

"In 2019, Haiqal went to the Sea Games under category B, and no one expected him to win the gold medal but he surprised everyone.

"So, what's on paper can change because what happens during the competition is what is important. We just need to work on getting our sprinters ready to perform to their best on race day."

Manshahar pointed out that the underdog tag suited the Malaysian sprinters well in the last two editions of the Sea Games.

"The pressure of racing in the final is different, some might revel in it, some would falter and end up making mistakes. Cray suffered disqualification in 2019 and it could be due to the pressure to win.

"Our sprinters also need to be ready to peak at the right time and seize the opportunity if other sprinters slip up. They still need to perform to win the race," added Manshahar.

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