SEA Games in Manila, KL high jumper Yap Sean Yee

KUCHING: During the just concluded SEA Games in Manila, KL high jumper Yap Sean Yee (pic) surprisingly won the women’s high jump, one of the main highlights of Malaysian athletics achievements in the meet.

It was said that Sean Yee was a successor of Sarawak athlete, Gladys Chai Ng Mei who last won the high jump for the nation in the 1979 SEA Games.

Gladys — now called Gladys Von der Laage Chai, as she married a German and lives in Germany — was the first Sarawakian to qualify for the Olympics. Unfortunately, she was injured at the Munich Olympics in 1972. 

After her, Noraishah Ismail from Selangor took over her mantle as the top women athlete. After Gladys, Malaysia had no woman high jumper of her calibre until Sean Yee came to the fore.

Sarawak had produced no short supply of great athletes like women athletes that represented Malaysia in the recent SEA Games.

Gladys Chai stormed into the scene as a 14-year-old and won a bronze in the then SEAP Games held in Rangoon in the early 1960s.

SEA Games in Manila, KL high jumper Yap Sean Yee

Other women athletes who carved their names in the SEA Games included throw specialist Lee Chew Ha, high jumper Wong Leh Khing, javelin thrower Vivien Chua, middle distance runners Chong Mei Ling now Latifah Chong and Lee Nyuk Moi.

The recent Games were rather disappointing for Malaysia as the expected golds vanished. 

Even athletes like Jackie Wong and Grace Wong Xiu Mei were prone to have an off-day. They won silver medals but missed out on the ultimate prize.

Jackie threw 63.82m for the silver, a personal disappointment for him as he had achieved a 68.22m in a Korean sports meet.

Grace Wong also fell below her 2017 SEA Games effort of 59.24m with a 55.82m after training in her hometown Sarikei.

But as long as Sarawak keeps on training and focus on developing new talents, a bright future is always on the horizon.

Welson Sim, who is based in Australia, may have lost two gold medals but in sports there is a learning curve and defeats are part of the road to success.

Like national swimming coach Chris Martin said: “I’m sure he (Welson) is thinking hard and making sure he’s back to where he was.”

The coach said Vietnam whose swimmer Nguyen Huy Huong got the better of Welson as he is from a country where hard training and winning gold is ingrained in their culture. The once impoverished country won 10 golds in swimming.