HEADY DAY FOR HEIDI
Lawyer is Malaysia’s first champ in Asian meet
HEIDI Gan is now the Asian champion in open water swimming. She not only overcame the scorching weather but also a host of top swimmers to become Malaysia’s first ever champion in the women’s 10km of the Asian Open Swimming Championships at the Putrajaya Lake yesterday.
The two-time Olympian won a close sprint finish by overtaking Kazakhstan’s Xeniya Romanchuk on the final loop to clinch an unexpected gold medal.
Heidi, 28, expected strong challenges from Japan’s Yumi Kida and Yukimi Noriyama, the top two ranked swimmers in Asia, but they did not compete yesterday after winning the 5km race on Friday.
The Japanese probably withdrew due to the humidity.
Nonetheless, Heidi’s win is still a notable achievement considering that open water swimmers do not get enough funding for competitions.
Former national swimmer Kevin Yeap also finished on the podium for a bronze in the men’s 10km event.
Heidi, a corporate lawyer based in Perth, finished the race in 2’17:00.773, followed by Romanchuk (2’21:04.210) and Thailand’s Benjaporn Sriphanomthom (2’22:50.736).
“It was very tough but it turned out good for me in the end. My coach (Matt Magee) actually had a strategy to keep pace with the Japanese swimmers.
“They were the early favourites but I think the weather got to them. I knew then I had a chance to create history for Malaysia.
“It is great to finish strongly under the heat considering that the last time I swam in this region was when I won the 5km and 10km races at the 2011 Indonesia Sea Games,” said Heidi, who was third in the 5km race on Friday.
Only the 10km race will be contested in the Kuala Lumpur Sea Games on Aug 18 and Heidi is hoping to win the gold.
“My tryout at this course is good practice as it is also the venue for the Sea Games. Swimmers from Thailand and Singapore will be my main rivals in the biennial event,” Heidi added.
Kevin was also delighted to bag his first medal in the discipline since he made the switch from pool swimming a year ago.
“I managed to outpace Welson Sim in the sixth and final loop for the bronze. My strategy was to keep things simple and not push too hard at the start.
“It was also not too humid towards the end and this helped me,” said Kevin, who won the 400m freestyle gold at the 2011 Sea Games.
RESULTS — Men’s 10km: 1 Vitaliy Khudyakov (Kaz) 2’05:26.623, 2 Cho Cheng-chi (Tai) 2’09:07.946, 3 Kevin Yeap (Mas) 2’10:57.570, 4 Welson Sim (Mas) 2’11:27.776… 7 Wong Jun Bin (Mas) 2’14:41.830 , 12 Vernon Lee (Mas) 2’20:33.283.
Women’s 10km: 1 Heidi Gan (Mas) 2’17:00.773, 2 Xeniya Romanchuk (Kaz) 2’21:04.210, 3 Benjaporn Sriphanomthom (Tha) 2’22:50.736… 10 Angela Chieng (Mas) 2’34:28.286.
Heidi Gan and Kevin Yap show off the medals they won at the Asian Open Championships at the Putrajaeya Lake yesterday.