It’s going to be crunch time for national sprinter Poh Seng Song at next week’s Asian Track and Field Championships (Nov 10-14) in Guangzhou, China.
The 26-year-old is part of the 12-strong Singapore contingent taking part in the meet as a final tune-up for next month’s South-east Asia Games in Laos, but he will probably be the one under the most pressure to perform.
For he has not been able to better or equal his personal best of 10.49sec this year ever since he clocked that time at last December’s Asean University Games to qualify for the SEA Games.
Since then, Seng Song’s times have hovered in the 10.80sec region. He has clocked 10.82sec (Vietnam Open), 10.81sec (Perak Open), 10.85sec (Taipei Open) and 10.85sec (Malaysia Open).
And now it seems that his precious slot in the 100m in Laos is at stake.
Some quarters in the local athletics community point to fast-improving newcomer Muhammad Elfi Musapha as a natural replacement for Seng Song. The 22-year-old has clocked 10.62sec and 10.59sec at the Perak and Taipei Opens respectively, the latter time being the fastest time clocked by a Singapore sprinter this year.
However, Elfi has yet to meet the 10.54sec timing that would immediately qualify him as a contender for the 100m slot. He, like Seng Song, is currently part of the 4x100m relay team that has been selected for the SEA Games.
So if Elfi, who is coached by Melvin Tan*, does meet the qualifying time at next week’s Asian Championships, then Seng Song’s place in the blue riband event will be under severe threat.
(There is another sprinter – Muhammad Amirudin – who has qualified for the 100m. But his place apparently seems to be under less theat as he has clocked two faster times than Seng Song this year ie 10.81sec in the Perak Open and 10.70sec at the Taipei Open).
Seng Song, who is a lecturer at ITE Simei, says that his current times should not be held against him as he is working towards peaking at the SEA Games. He also says that he was having the flu durng the Vietnam,Perak and Taipei meets.
Unfortunately, observers can always point to U K Syam’s magnificent run of improving results (he went from 10.70 sec to a new national record of 10.37sec) in the lead-up to the 2001 SEA Games as a counter-argument to Seng Song’s claims.
Whatever the case, it looks like Seng Song desperately needs to put in a good show and clock a good time at the Asian Championships just to silence his critics.
I really hope he does.
Because if he doesn’t, and if he ends up losing his place in the end, then you can kiss team unity in the 4x100m relay goodbye.
Apart from the men’s 4x100m relay squad, the other athletes competing in Guangzhou include discus throwers* Wan Lay Chi and Scott Wong, pole vaulter Rachel Yang and jumpers Michelle Sng (high) Matthew Goh (long) and Stefan Tseng (triple).
It will be interesting to see if the higher level of competition at the Asian Championships can push any of these athletes towards achieving new personal bests.
That would be a wonderful personal morale boost as they go into the final weeks before the SEA Games.
Yours in sport
Singapore Sports Fan
Some changes (indicated by an *) have been made to this blog entry to reflect factual accuracy. I would like to thank Speed Demon for pointing them out (see his comment below)