TODAY reported on the contrasting fortunes of rising young sprinters Shahrir Mohd Anuar and Habibah Najihahbi in their respective 100m finals at the 11th Thailand Sports School Games. Shahrir was pipped to the gold in the Boys U-16 final in a controversial photo finish. He finished in 11.11secs, 0.01sec behind the Thai victor. Habibah, on the other hand, took the Girls U-14 title after staging a great come-from-behind surge to beat her rival at the tape. She clocked 13.09sec. You can check out the report here.
Apart from Calvin Kang, Amanda Choo and Balpreet Kaur, there are three other junior sprinters I’ve been keeping tabs on: Shahrir Mohd Anuar, Liang Wei and Habibah Najihahbi.
The progress that the trio – all from the Singapore Sports School – have made in the past six months has really been a joy to behold.
Although he is still only 15, Shahrir has already conquered the 11-second barrier. His personal best is currently 10.88sec, which he clocked at the recent International Children’s Games en route to winning the U-15 100m final (see report here).
Prior to that, he had clocked 10.90sec in the Boys U-17 100m final at the 34th Singapore Junior Athletics Championships.
Now those are pretty impressive timings, especially when you consider that Calvin Kang was 16 when he clocked 10.88sec at the 2006 National Junior Championships.
It is going to be really interesting to track Shahrir’s development over the next 12 months to see if he can emerge as Calvin’s strongest rival in the century sprint. And I can only see good coming out of this for Calvin as the SEA Games comes around next year because he is definitely going to need someone constantly snapping at his heels and breathing down his neck if he is to become a real medal contender for the 100m.
Shahrir’s progress will also spell good news for the national 4x100m relay squad as they attempt to qualify for the SEA Games.
Another Secondary Three student to look out for is 15-year-old Liang Wei who currently holds the national U-15 record of 12.74sec.
Making her debut in the Girls U-17 100ms, she clocked 12.83sec in the heats before going on to win the final in 12.89sec. A month later, she posted a set of eyebrow-raising times at the ICG.
After clocking a new personal best of 12.86sec in the preliminaries, she then did a stunning 12.58sec to advance into the semis.
The 15-year-old then showed that the timing was no fluke in her next two races as she first did 12.63sec in the semi-finals before registering a new PB of 12.56sec in the final (she finished a creditable third by the way).
Liang Wei not only took the bronze with that timing, her 12.56sec also makes her Singapore’s fifth fastest woman this season behind national record holder Amanda Choo (12.12sec), national junior record holder Balpreet Kaur (12.23sec), Wong Ze Teng and Ann Siao Mei (the latter two clocked 12.52sec and 12.53sec respectively at the Malaysian Amateur Athletic Union’s Pre-Olympic meet early last month).
If this spunky teenager continues to make good progress next year, she’s not only going to become a useful addition to the national women’s 4x100m squad as it prepares to qualify for the SEA Games but also a strong contender for one of the four actual relay spots.
Finally, keep a watch on young Habibah Najihahbi, who, at the tender age of 14, is already clocking times that belie her age.
Habibah first served notice of her promise at the Singapore Juniors when she broke the 13-second barrier in the Girls U-15 100m heats. She clocked 12.96sec – a time that was faster than most of the bulk of the sprinters competing in the U-20 category.
But it was at the ICG which she really gave a glimpse of the exciting future that lies before her. She first did a PB of 12.92sec in the heats before recording a stunning 12.75sec in the quarter-finals.
Habibah then clocked 13.04sec in the semis and the final. She finished last incidentally but really, there’s no shame in that at all when you look at her timings.
It’s going to be fun to watch what sort of progress she will be making over the next 12 months.
Yours in sport
Singapore Sports Fan