Wed, 12 Sep 2001

Indonesian athletes target four gold on first day

JAKARTA (JP): Indonesia is targeting four gold medals on the opening day of track and field competition on Wednesday, while Thailand and Malaysia, both renowned for their strength in athletics, look set to begin a fierce rivalry.

Ria Lumintiarso, the team's manager, said that the four golds would be expected from Nunung Jayadi in the men's pole vault, Yurita Ariani in the women's hammer throw, Irene Truitje Joseph in the women's 100m sprint and Supriati Sutono in the women's 10,000m.

Another discipline on the opening day will be the men's 20km walk in which the team, according to Ria, did not expect a win.

"We will settle for a bronze in the walk," she said as quoted by Antara on Tuesday.

She said the athletes were fired up for the challenge. "They have tried the track. We have no problems, it's a nice surface," she said.

"What should be our major concern is how to maintain their fighting spirit. It must be kept intact," she added.

Nunung Jayadi conceded that the competition had become stronger than ever before, but said that he was optimistic of defending the gold medal he won in Brunei two years ago.

"I will aim for a 5.15-meter vault. I will try and hopefully I can do it," said Nunung, whose vault of 5.05 meter earned him the gold in Brunei.

He said his mark during the preparation, during which he leapt 5.25 meters, should augur well for the campaign.

Irene fit

Commenting on apprehension over Irene's recurring thigh injury, coach Peter Noya said that it should not be a problem.

"As long as she warms up well, she will be fine," he said.

Irene, the 100m title holder, has complained about a recurring pain in her thigh, which she injured while competing in America in 1997. The ailment has been disturbing her for the past two weeks.

The Maluku-born athlete will also race in the 200m and 4x100m relay.

"She is in good shape and is poised to defend the title," Peter said.

Reigning champion Thailand, which is currently trailing Malaysia in the medal tally, has thrown down the gauntlet to its rival, host team Malaysia, aware that the athletics events offer a good opportunity for it to close the medal gap.

The two have already set the target of securing 16 golds from the 46 up for grabs on the field.

Thailand and Malaysia have long been a dominant force in SEA Games athletics competition. The last two games justify their ranking as favorites.

In 1997, Malaysia reaped 16 golds and Thailand 15. Two years later in Brunei, Thailand took 20 golds compared to Malaysia's 12.

Thailand will be banking its hopes on short distance events through key runners Reanchai Seeharwong and Supavadee Khawpaen, while Malaysia is relying on veterans such as M. Ramachandran, Nur Herman Majid, Wong Tee Kue and Loo Kum Zee.

The track and field events will be held at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium.