Sun, 28 May 2000

Thailand strokes ahead at SEA Age Group event

By Lukman Natanagara

DENPASAR (JP): Thailand continued its supremacy in the 24th Southeast Asia (SEA) Age Group Swimming Championships on Saturday by sweeping 12 more gold medals at the Bali Cliff pool.

Thailand tops the medal tally with 24 golds, 14 silvers and 12 bronzes. Singapore remains in second place with a total of 12 golds, 12 silvers and 11 bronzes while the Philippines took over host Indonesia's third position with 10 golds, four silvers and 12 bronzes.

Indonesia slipped to fourth after taking three additional golds, six silvers and 10 bronzes for a total of six golds, 14 silvers and 20 bronzes.

Vietnam is in fifth place, adding two silvers for a total of three silvers. Brunei Darussalam has yet to win a medal and other Southeast Asian countries Malaysia, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia skipped the championships.

Indonesia's Mohammad Akbar Nasution contributed two more golds for his team along with Renate Lumbantoruan. Akbar, swimming in the boys 15-17 year category, earned his first gold in the 100m breaststroke in a time of one minute and 07.47 seconds. It bettered his time of 1:07.59 set last year.

His second gold was in the 400m individual medley in 4:47.16, well outside his personal best of 4:42.39.

Renate took the gold in the 12-and-under 100m breaststroke by clocking 1:19.31.

Akmad Yani contributed two silvers in the 13-14 age group 200m freestyle (2:05.09) and 100m breaststroke (1:09.65). Siripaya Sutanto earned two silvers in the 15-17 group 200m freestyle (2:08.65) and the 400m individual medley (5:17.61).

Hans Yosaputra got his silver in the 15-17 group 200m backstroke with a time of 2:19.46 and Febrianto Kurniawan earned another silver in the 13-14 group 50m freestyle, clocking 0:26.12.

Coach Radja Nasution hoped his swimmers could earn more golds in Sunday's last races. "It will, of course, be a difficult task but I have asked my swimmers to fight for it."

He expressed optimism that Indonesia would be able to earn four more golds from Akbar, Akmad, Renate and Shelomita.

"The four swimmers are our hopes to get the golds but I hope others will follow their example to do their best. We have targeted only 10 golds but if we get more, this means we can improve on our fourth place from last year's competition in Singapore," he said.

Radja admitted his swimmers lacked the stamina of their foreign rivals.

"I just want my swimmers to do their best and gain good experience from this championships. After the event, I will train them harder as our main target is the National Games (PON) in Surabaya and the Sydney Olympics," he said.

Akbar told The Jakarta Post that he underwent minimal preparation for the championships as he was focused on PON and the Olympics.

"With better preparation for the event, I could have won more golds. But my focus is now on PON and the Sydney Olympics."

The 17-year-old swimmer, who is a student at Ragunan Sports School, is part of an Indonesian swimming dynasty. The Nasution sisters -- Elfira Rosa, Maya Masita, Elsa Manora and Kevin Rose -- have long been mainstays on the national swimming scen.

"Certainly I want to follow their success. Probably when I am 20, I will swim more intensively," he said.