Clash of super kids

The Sea Games men's 100m pulsates with excitement and expectations as nations look to their "super kids" today for glory.

The adrenaline flows with no shortage of superlatives and sobriquets as the various camps hype up their challengers for the blue riband event at My Dinh National Stadium in Hanoi.

As athletic aficionados get excited over "Usain Bolt of Malaysia" versus Thai wonderkid Puripol Boonson, the Indonesia media is trumpeting their super kid Lalu Muhammad Zohri.

Indeed, Lalu, 21, the orphan from Lombok, is the golden boy of Indonesian athletics. Winner of the 100m at the 2018 World Under-20 championship, he has a PB of 10.03.

The stars that dominated the Sea Games century dash in recent editions have faded. Now, it's all about the new kids on the block, kids who are all charged up.

Days ago, Puripol Boonson, who is only 16, sensationally smashed the 23-year-old Sea Games record (20.69) with 20.37s to win the 200m gold.

That has propelled the Thai into the 100m spotlight today. It remains to be seen whether he have the explosive starting power for the shorter distance?

Making his Sea Games debut, Azeem Fahmi, 18, is young and fearless. And being billed as the "Usain Bolt of Malaysia", he hopes to give a race that Malaysians will never forget.

Azeem knows well that the 100m race is race full of surprises: a bad start, a wrong stride can change it all. So, the much-talked about rivals with the fantastic PBs don't intimidate him.

After all, the big names from the other nations spluttered in the last two Sea Games, which saw Khairul Hafiz Jantan (2017) and Haiqal Hanafi winning the coveted 100m gold for Malaysia.

Azeem said the presences of Puripol and Lalu will make him all fired up for a blistering run.

"I will focus on qualifying for the final first. The rivals are very strong, making it a big challenge for me. But this will motivate me to give my all.

"They (Lalu and Puripol) are really fast, but anything can happen in just about 10 seconds."

Azeem has already got that "podium feeling" after helping Malaysia win the men's 4 x 100m relay silver on Monday. Running the first leg, he put his team in a good position for Arsyad Md Saat, Zulfiqar Ismail and Haiqal Hanafi to finish second with a new national relay record of 39.09s. Apart from Azeem, Malaysia will also field Arsyad Md Saat for the 100m.

Azeem said he aims to run faster than his 10.37s achieved at the KL All-Comers meet in March. He leaves the rest to the anything-can-happen moment.

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