By Haresh Kumar Ramani
National 100m record holder UK Shyam was a contender for gold in the men’s 100m (35 to 39 age group) at the 19th Asia Masters Athletics Championships after he finished the semi-finals as the second fastest qualifier, 0.01 second behind India’s Manoj Manoj, who posted a time of 11.53sec.
But Singaporeans who turned up at the National Stadium yesterday to watch the two-time South-east Asia Games silver medallist in action were left in dismay after he pulled out of the race due to personal reasons.
Shyam’s mother was hospitalised and the former Singapore sprint star stayed by her side, and thankfully, it was later confirmed that the illness was nothing major.
With Shyam out, the race became a battle between sprinters from traditional rivals Sri Lanka and India.
In a thrilling finish, Sri Lanka’s WBY Rohana bagged gold with a time of 11.63, ahead of India’s Anil Kumar, 36, and 35-year-old Manoj Manoj, who finished second and third, respectively.
They posted an identical timing 11.64 but Kumar got the nod for second place via the photo finish.
Rohana was over the moon after capturing gold in his first Masters outing and speaking to The New Paper after his win, the 37-year-old said: “I’m very happy and I’m glad to bring glory to my country.”
“It was my first time competing and I’m glad I was able to earn my first medal here.”
It proved to be a home away from home for the likes of Rohana, who was backed by his own teammates and a strong Sri Lankan presence in the stands.
“My teammates are the best,” said Rohana.
“They supported me from the start and I could also hear the Sri Lankans in the stands shouting and cheering.”
Looking forward, Rohana believes that he has what it takes to retain his title when the Masters rolls around again in 2018.
“I believe that this is not my best. I will work even harder to beat my personal best so that I can win a gold medal for my country again,” he vowed.
Rohana added that his next target would be the 22nd World Masters Athletics championships in Perth in October.
“I hope that I will be able to make it for the next tournament as it is going to be more tough,” said Rohana.
“But I believe that with the help of my coaches and the support from my teammates, it is worth the try.”