Jonathan Nyepa is now in the US training for the SEA Games.

KUCHING: Sarawak’s top sprinter Jonathan Nyepa is one of the first athletes to qualify for the SEA Games in December in the Philippines.

The Sungai-Asap born sprinter, who skipped the Sarawak Open athletics championships held about a week ago as he is currently training in the United States in Atlanta, clocked 10.42s to finish fifth in his first competition.

The qualifying mark for the 100m at the SEA Games is 10.43 secs.

Jonathan, who is accompanied by women national sprinter Zaidatul Husinrah Zulkifli, will be undergoing training and competitions in an eight-month stint.

He is considered the fastest man in Sarawak together with another sprinter Nixson Kennedy as both had clocked 10.29s to break former national ace ‘Flying Dayak’ Watson Nyambek’s record of 10.30s.

The 23-year old sprinter who won a silver behind national speed king Khairul Hafiz Jantan in the 2016 Sukma held in Sarawak upstaged his rival when he clocked a personal best of 21.10s in the 200m at the Perak All-Comers meet recently. Sarawak Amateur Athletics Association  (AAA) official Leong Beng Keong said both Jonathan and Nixson as well as hurdlers Quek Lee Yong and Mohd Rizzua are based in Kuala Lumpur under the National Sports Council to prepare for the SEA Games.

Jonathan Nyepa is now in the US training for the SEA Games.

“Jonathan and other top Sarawak athletes are now based in Kuala Lumpur, except for Grace Wong who is training in Sarikei,” said Leong.

The SAAA secretary said that depending on the rule of eligibility in age for the Sukma which might be raised to 23, Sarawak athletes like Quek Lee Yong, Mohd Rizzua and even Jonathan may be able to take part in Sukma 2020 in Johor.

“It’s not certain yet but there are talks in the Sukma organising committee and the host that the age limit be raised from 21 to 23 but it is still at the talking stage,” said Leong.

In the recent Sarawak Open, Nixson, who is part of the national relay team, won the 100m clocking 10.59s ahead of Mohd Faaizul Abdullah from MSN Bukit Jalil and Dion Dexter Redang from the Axis athletics club, both of whom clocked 10.92s.

In the women’s 100m, Sukma athlete Ruby Lee Jia Lu from Miri dipped below 13s to win the event in 12.00s ahead of Eureeka Bawe Justin from Cats, who clocked 13.38s.

In the 110m hurdles, Sarawak Sukma gold medal winner Mohd Rizzua Haizard posted a 14.78s for an easy win over Mohd Raid Ramlee from Tuaran club, Sabah who clocked 15.71s followed by third placed Mohd Norhazim Ahmad from Cats.

In the throw events, youngster Jonah Chang Rigan who recently won gold in the Asean schools meet in the shot put event, threw to a distance of 13.89m to win silver behind Sukma athlete and Sarikei teammate Kong Chin Poh whose throw was 14.15m. Close behind in third place was Sim Quan Ying from Miri who managed 13.65m.

Jonah, who also competed in the discus at the Under-16 category at the State meet, won hands down as he threw to a 50.42m distance, way ahead of Yusuf Langat from MSNS Miri who registered 32.76m.

In the Under 16 shot put event, he threw the lighter iron ball to win gold with a distance of 17.59m which was six metres ahead of silver medallist Harry Ugon Edward from Sarikei who threw to a distance of 11.47m. In the women’s high jump, Norliyana Kamaruddin who represented MSN Bukit Jalil cleared 1.75m for the gold while Su Lik Zheng from Sarikei managed 1.55m.