Wed, 12 Sep 2001

Vietnam, RI split team karate finals

KAJANG, Malaysia (Agencies): Vietnam grabbed three gold medals in karate Tuesday at the Southeast Asian Games, but host Malaysia won a final gold to come away with a total of nine and utterly dominate the sport.

Indonesia and Vietnam came away with four golds each and contested both the men's and women's team finals Tuesday. The Vietnamese women and Indonesian men were victorious, and the medal tallies marked a big accomplishment for up-and-coming Vietnam and consolation for former powerhouse Indonesia.

For Indonesia, walking away with four golds was an improvement from the two won in Brunei in 1999, but still a major comedown from the 15 won in 1997 at home in Jakarta amid controversy over judging.

"Before, we were number one," said Dr. H. Rahmat Shah, a senior team official. "We've been slow because of the situation in the country, but maybe we're on our way back now."

Hasan Basri, 29, an Indonesian student who had four SEA Games golds under his belt before coming to Malaysia, mined gold in the under-65 kilograms category Monday and in the team competition Tuesday.

Though he was one of the older competitors and competing in his sixth SEA Games, Hasan took heart from his double gold and issued a warning: "Maybe I'll be back for the next one."

Sonny Simangunsong won a gold for Indonesia in the men's under 70-kilogram category Tuesday. Junel O. Perania of the Philippines took the silver, while Lee Yung Siang of Singapore and Muniandi Rajoo of Malaysia shared bronze.

The Malaysian victory went to Tiagu Ponniyah in the men's 80- kilogram category, with a 9-7 edge over Thailand's Saner Jaritrum. Sudirman, an Indonesian who uses only one name, and Tran Hai Ha shared the bronzes.

The ninth gold was one more than Malaysian officials had hoped for in the 19 karate events, and in the view of Mohamad Noor Nordin, first vice president of the Malaysian Karate Federation, it was enough.

"It's bad for the sport if one team wins all the medals," Mohamad said.

Pham Hung Ha, who won Vietnam's first gold ever in the under- 48 kilogram division Sunday, clinched the team victory in the third bout and was overcome with emotion, collapsing into the arms of her teammates and weeping as she was nearly carried from the arena. Malaysia and the Philippines split the bronzes.

"This is the very best day for Vietnam," said Vietnamese head coach Le Cong. "I'm very proud of my girls. All my student were very brave. My heart is glad."

Earlier, Vietnam captured the individual open categories, with Nguyen Thi Thu Tang triumphant for the women and Vu Quoc Huy for the men.

The Philippines won two karate golds Sunday.