TEOH Boon Lim delivered an early morning cheer yesterday by extending Malaysia's domination of the men's walks event but voiced fears that the gold medal could slip from Malaysian possession if nothing is done to bring junior walkers up to scratch.
Boon Lim won his third gold medal in the men's 20km walk at the National Stadium in Vientiane largely unchallenged as he crossed the line in one hour, 31 minutes and 28 seconds, ahead of Indonesian duo Indra Abdul Kadir (1:32:09) and Kristian L. Tobing (1:33:35).
But a Malaysian 1-2 fizzled out when Lo Choon Sieng was disqualified for floating near the 6km mark much to Boon Lim's disappointment.
"I was hoping my junior (Choon Sieng) would beat me because the other countries are fast catching up. Indonesia will host the next Games and the two Indonesians behind me will be well motivated to win gold and I think the NSC (National Sports Council) and MAAU (Malaysian Amateur Athletic Union) need to act fast," said Boon Lim, who also won gold in 2001 and 2007.
Boon Lim, 32, said the ease of his victory does not bode well for the future of Malaysian walking.
"For me, being at the Sea Games is just about winning the gold medal. Honestly, I'm here because it is a good opportunity to make a quick buck.
"But the fact that I am still needed to win gold shows Malaysian walking is not improving. In fact, the Sea Games standard is so low that winning here does not mean much.
"Our young walkers need to be sent overseas for regular exposure, and if they are still counting on me to deliver gold, I don't know about that as I'm not getting any younger," said the self-trained Boon Lim.
Choon Sieng's early exit was the second in successive Games emulating Sharrulhaizy Abdul Rahman's disqualification in Korat two years ago.
While the men's gold has been in Malaysia's grasp since 1993, an 18-year winning streak in the women's walks came to an end when 16-year-old Nurliana Rusni finished outside the medals in fourth place.
The absence of a pregnant Yuan Yufang, the winner of the last three 20km gold medals, meant Malaysia relinquished its hold on the women's 20km gold as Myanmar's Kay Khing Myo Tun claimed gold in 1:45:06.
Nurliana, making her debut at the Sea Games, finished in 1:54:58 after falling off the pace in the second lap.