Mon, 17 Sep 2001

Malaysia all but crowned SEA Games champion

By Novan Iman Santosa

KUALA LUMPUR (JP): Malaysia is bracing for a big party to celebrate a historic win in the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.

On the penultimate day of the 21st holding of the regional sports event, host Malaysia took an unassailable lead in the medal standings by a margin of six golds ahead of closest rival Thailand with just five golds remaining.

Pressing hard to realize its ambition of taking the overall title for the first time ever, Malaysia has collected 105 golds, compared to Thailand's 99.

Malaysia will have the opportunity of confirming its victory on the final day with wins in equestrian, synchronized diving and synchronized swimming, all sports the host team excels in.

Indonesia added 10 golds on Sunday for an overall total of 72 and is certain to finish third for the second time in a row.

The games were marred by the finding of a positive doping case, but the organizers would not disclose the athlete's name, nationality or which sport he or she competed in.

"I can only confirm there is a positive case. But you will have to wait for the other details," SEAGF president Imran Ja'afar told reporters, declining also to reveal whether the athlete had won any medals.

Malaysia gained its winning golds mostly from rhythmic gymnastics, lawn bowls, synchronized diving and boxing.

Thailand lived up to its status as the fifth-ranked boxing country in the world, winning seven out of 11 golds on offer. However, the results would have been even more alarming had the other four Thais overcome their respective opponents.

Instead, it was the Malaysian and Indonesian boxers who each took two titles. The Philippines, with two finalists and Laos with one, failed in their efforts.

Indonesia's Bonyx Saweho was too quick for Thai Keaw Pongprayoon, winning the gold with a 24-15 win in the 45-kilogram division on the day when compatriot Albert Papilaya beat Pornchai Thongburan of Thailand 15-7 in the 81kg division.

"My boxers are very good," said Indonesia's Cuban coach Carlos Jerus.

The Indonesian contingent took one gold each in tennis, golf, pool, and five in pencak silat, the traditional martial art popular in the Southeast Asian nations.

The only gold of the day meant that Indonesia failed to make a major impression on the tennis court, with Thailand taking the other two.

Indonesia surprised Thailand 2-0 to win its first women's team golf gold, while M. Junarto and Adam Abdurrahim were victorious in the pool competition after beating Kiamko Warren and Tanio Vivancio of the Philippines in the 9-ball doubles final.

The big win for the contingent came in the pencak silat arena where it reaped five golds in a competition in which Indonesia protested over alleged unfair refereeing.