Ex-Paralympic champ Prawat pips teammate Rawat to the gold
Prawat shows why he is a world-class racer as he pips Rawat for gold
Prawat Wahoram is one of the best middle- and long-distance wheelchair racers in the world.
The Thai has won five gold medals at the Paralympic Games since his debut as a 19-year-old at the Sydney Games in 2000.
Today he is 34, and he entered the Asean Para Games as one of the biggest stars, and he lived up to the billing at the National Stadium yesterday.
In a thrilling battle, Prawat won the men's 1,500m T54 race in 2min 59.88sec, pipping compatriot Rawat Tana by just 0.17sec.
Prawat's time smashed his previous Games record of 3:11.70 set in Kuala Lumpur in 2009.
No wonder the gold medallist was all smiles after the race.
Off came his black protective gloves, which revealed heavily taped fingers.
So just how much does a 1.5km wheelchair race take out of the arms?
"It's okay.. No pain," said Prawat, wearing a broad grin.
After a pause, he added, again with a smile: "Less pain when you win."
Yes, there are longer distances in wheelchair racing - the 10,000m and the marathon.
But, while those two events require perseverance, a middle-distance racer needs to combine intensity with strength and strategy.
Prawat, who works for beer giants Singha in Bangkok, knows that mix pretty well. He has won 12 Paralympic medals so far.
Besides wins in the 5,000m in Sydney 2000 and Beijing 2008, and one 10,000m triumph (2000), Prawat was also part of Thailand's victorious relay teams in Athens 2004 (4x100m and 4x400m).
In a thrilling race yesterday, Prawat and Rawat opened up a sizeable gap to the other two competitors in the field - Cambodia's Saveoun Heng and Vietnam's Luc Thuong Hua - within the first lap.
Prawat was content to tail his compatriot, who is four years his senior, for almost the entire race.
He made his move in the final 50m, and inched ahead of Rawat the final 10m or so to win.
Prawat later discovered his winning time was less than a second off the Asian record held by Japan's Higuchi Masayuki (2:58.91), and he is now is looking to make Asia's top mark his own.
"I'm very glad to clock a time so close to the Asian record," he said.
"My next goal is to go on and break it and, hopefully, win all my future races."
Malaysia surge but Indonesia still lead
The three-way race between Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand to top track and field at the Asean Para Games continued yesterday.
Malaysia were the biggest winners on the fourth day of action, winning five of 19 golds up for grabs.
Indonesia claimed four and Thailand three. The Indonesians, however, still lead the track and field medal standings with 23 golds, followed by Malaysia (21).
With 31 golds up for grabs in the next two days, third-placed Thailand (17 golds) and even Vietnam (12) are still in with a shout of usurping the Indonesians.
Meanwhile, Zac Leow, who won Singapore's only athletics medal with a silver in the 1,500m (T37) on Sunday, finished seventh in the 400m yesterday, clocking 1min 10.60sec.
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