KUALA LUMPUR: Norliyana Kamaruddin has yet to win a Sea Games medal, but she showed her potential in the heptathlon after breaking a 36-year-old national record on Friday.
The 26-year-old erased Datuk Zaiton Othman's mark of 5,175 points set in 1981 with an effort of 5,247 to finish fourth.
Norliyana needed to beat Wassana Winatho, the defending champion, in the concluding 800m event to get a place on the podium. However, the Thai won the race, with the Malaysian coming behind, to secure the bronze medal by 41 points.
Thailand’s Sunisa Khotseemueang scored 5,430 for gold while Indonesia’s Emilia Nova was second with 5,386 points.
"I'm surprised I got the record," said Norliyana, who was 16 when she made her only Sea Games appearance in 2007 in the high jump.
"In the last event, I went all out. It's very hard to get points in this event. The high jump and 800m are my best events where I improved the most to cross 5,000 points for the first time."
Zaiton remains the last Malaysian to have won a heptathlon medal when she took gold in 1989 but Norliyana is aiming to end the drought at the next Games.
"I've been involved in heptathlon for four years since switching from high jump," said Norliyana, whose previous best was 4,992 points. "I hope to get a medal in the next Sea Games. I think I can still improve on my speed."
Norliyana, who trains in Penang under multi-discipline coach Rifat Artikov from Uzbekistan, is committed to heptathlon with no intention of returning to the high jump.
"At first, I just wanted to give it a try but then I grew to like it," said Norliyana, whose 1.80m would have seen her compete well with the specialist high jumpers. "I also stuck with it since we don't have any athletes in this event."