SINGAPORE: Tears rolled down Sharmini Christina Ratnasingham’s cheeks after she clinched the showjumping gold medal.
It was Malaysia’s first victory in the event since 2007, when the Qabil Ambak-led team swept four of the five gold medals at stake.
And it was as close a win as it can get.
With the odds heavily stacked against her, the 29-year-old Malaysian defeated home favourite Catherine Chew in a jump-off. Both riders had cleared the first two rounds of the final without any penalties.
In the jump-off, Sharmini cleared every obstacle without any penalty points in 35.9 seconds. The 26-year-old Catherine also cleared all obstacles without penalties - but she did so a fraction slower - in 36.69 – a difference of 0.79 seconds!
Gold was Sharmini’s.
With her family, in particular brother Neelan, providing strong support from the stands, the ice-cool Sharmini rode her 11-year-old Hanoverian-breed stallion Arcado L to perfection.
And Catherine crumbled under the pressure, much to the disappointment of the home crowd.
Thailand’s Sailub Lertratanachai took bronze after edging Singapore’s Pedrag Marjanovic in the jump-off.
The other two Malaysians in the final didn’t fare so well. Ahmad Imtaz Amir Hamzah was eliminated in the first round and Natasha Ines Wah Idris in the second.
“Jump-offs are usually not my thing, but somehow I managed to pull it off today. I think I surprised even myself with that,” said an emotional Sharmini, who took up riding at the age of six.
“I really had to work a lot harder, especially at the corners because Catherine had a lot more pace and could have won it,” said Sharmini, who made her Games debut four years ago in Indonesia.
“I’m really grateful to my coach Lars (Bak Anderson) and my team and family, who helped me see through it all.
“All the hard work that we’ve put in ... in training and competitions, have been worth it – winning this gold for Malaysia.”
Sharmini’s gold is Malaysia’s third medal in equestrian, after silver in team showjumping and bronze in team dressage.
*Picture by FAIHAN GHANI/The STAR
The Star Online