Mon, 17 Sep 2001

Ruwiyati marathon hat-trick bid flops

JAKARTA (Agencies): Indonesian top runner Ruwiyati failed in her bid for a hat-trick in the marathon after she retired midway through the race at the 21st SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday.

The race, starting at 6 p.m. local time, encompassed a 42.195 kilometer route in downtown Kuala Lumpur. Ruwiyati was forced to abandon her effort after running 26 kilometers.

"I apologize for not being the winner. I'm ill," the diminutive Ruwiyati told Antara.

She complained about her below-standard physical shape due to a bout of the flu she picked up while she was in Jakarta. However, she said she had felt fit for the competition.

"Before the start of the run, I was feeling fine. But it turned out that I lost my stamina in the middle of the race, and (I) stopped," she added.

Ruwiyati holds the SEA Games women's marathon record of 2:34:29 she set in Chiang Mai, Thailand, in 1995. She defended her title in 1997. In 1999 in Brunei, the event was given a no- show.

With Sunday's race completed, her record remains intact as winner Christable Martes of the Philippines clocked 2:52:43.

Despite Ruwiyati's defeated defense bid, Indonesia received consolation with a bronze medal by Erni Ulatningsih who finished in 2:57:10, or two minutes behind silver medalist Papa of Myanmar.

The Philippines were also triumphant in the men's race, with Roy Ortega Vence leading teammate Allen Ballester to a one-two finish.

Vence crossed the finish line in 2:23:51, or 47 hundredths of a second faster than Ballester. But Navyman Vence remained three minutes behind the SEA Games record set by Indonesia's Eduardus Nabunome in 1997.

Osias Kamlase of Indonesia accomplished the job in 2:33:03 for the bronze.

Marathons wrapped up the track and field program, which saw Thailand, with youngsters making up the majority portion of the team, showing its domination in the five-day event with 22 gold medals, almost half the number at stake, eight silvers and 11 bronzes.

Boosted by Sunday's double victory, the Philippines ended at a distant second with eight gold medals, 11 silvers and four bronzes. Malaysia came in third with eight gold medals, five silvers and nine bronzes.

Sunday's race rounded off Indonesia's shaky performance of winning three golds, two by veteran middle-distance runner Supriati Sutono and the other by woman pole vaulter Ni Putu Desy Margawaty.

Bannered by reigning Southeast Asian sprint king Reanchai 'Ultraman' Seerharwong, the Thais dominated the men's and women's 100 meter sprints as well as the men's and women's 200 meters.

They also demolished their opponents in the men's triple jump, women's shot putt, men's javelin throw, women's 4 x 100 meter relay, women's 4 x 400 meter relay and the men's 4 x 400 meter relay.

A Thai trainer said the defending champion was preparing for the 2004 Olympics in Greece, with an ambitious project called "Thinking of Greece 2004".

As the Thais hone their athletes, their rivals were relying on older legs and arms.

The Philippines fielded 34-year-old Elma Muros, a mother of a nine-year-old daughter. Muros started competing when she was 13 years old.

Although she won a gold in the heptathlon, Muros lost her long jump crown to a younger Vietnamese athlete.

"We still have to find a replacement for Lydia de Vega," a Filipino sports official told AFP. The gazelle-like De Vega was a long-time queen of the 100m sprint and her record remains unbroken.

Muros said there was "no continuity" in training younger Filipinos, placing a heavy burden on older ones.

Malaysia's output of eight golds this year is its lowest since 1987, and is well short of its target of 16 golds.