Lawyer is Malaysia’s first champ in Asian meet

New Straits Times - - Sport - AJIT­PAL SINGH ajit­pals­ingh@nst.com.my

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.

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