Suhairi Suhani's over the moon with his silver in the long jump at the Asean Para Games
Suhairi raises Singapore flag for the second time in athletics and he's now aiming higher
It was the Malaysian national anthem that rang out, but that did not matter to Suhairi Suhani as he stood on the podium.
The Singapore flag was hoisted at the National Stadium for only the second time at the 8th Asean Para Games, and the 18-year-old was beaming with pride.
Suhairi bagged silver in the men's long jump F20 class (intellectual disability) yesterday with a personal best of 6.66m, just 1cm ahead of Indonesia's Fadli Amirullah.
Both were blown away by gold medallist Abdul Latif Romly of Malaysia, who rewrote his own Asian record with a 7.43m effort on his sixth and final attempt.
Suhairi's silver follows Zac Leow's silver in the men's 1,500m T37 event on Sunday, and the Delta Senior School student could not stop smiling.
Speaking to the media after obliging requests for photos and autographs from a throng of volunteers as he walked off the long-jump pit, he said: "It's incredible. I worked for it - worked hard for it - listened to my coach, and now I'm stepping onto the podium."
This is Suhairi's second Games, and he still remembers his experience at last year's Games in Myanmar.
"I was very nervous there, and I finished fifth. And now it's in Singapore, and I made it," he said, smile broadening.
He had also taken part in the 400m T20 over the weekend, clocking a personal best of 55.15sec in the heats, but managed to come in only sixth in the final.
The event stood out as all three who made it to the podium - Indonesia's Felipus Kolymau (49.57), Malaysia's Nasharuddin Mohd (49.65) and Endi Nurdin Tine (50.99), also from Indonesia - clocked times that beat the previous mark of 51.61.
If anything, being beaten by quality opponents seemed to inspire Suhairi.
Yesterday he smacked Abdul Latif - who struck gold in the long jump at the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Athletics World Championships in Doha earlier this year - across the back, as they laughed and posed for pictures together after walking off the long-jump pit.
"I will have to reflect on my performance.
"I worked hard for this, but I know I will have to train even harder," said Suhairi, who revealed that he had only three months to work on the 400m.
He has been licensed by the IPC, allowing him to take part in official IPC athletics meets next year, and coach Mohamed Hosni believes the Suhairi he has seen on the practice track has the attitude to achieve.
"Our young sprinters like Haziq Ibrahim (14-year-old 400m T20 runner) are looking up to Suhairi already, and one of the key reasons is that there is no one more dedicated to training than Suhairi," said Hosni.
"Haziq is trying to be like Suhairi, and I think that sort of attitude can only be good for the team," he added.
Suhairi has managed to get on the podium at these Games, and his eyes are now trained on the horizon.
"I know I must train harder, and hopefully next year at IPC events..." said Suhairi, whose voice trailed off as he obliged another autograph hunter.
The phrases "work hard" and "train harder" kept popping up throughout this short interview, and he did not have to finish his sentence.
If the size of his dreams were not immediately obvious, his method of getting there definitely was.
Bad luck for Le
There was drama in the men's 200m T37 final yesterday, after the newly-minted Asean Para Games 100m champion in the same class, Vietnam's Le Van Manh, was shown the red card following a false start.
Le had made it to the event's final with a time of 26.89sec, making him the fastest qualifier and firm favourite.
His absence allowed Thailand's Sakphet Saewang to beat off the challenge of 16-year-old Malaysian Jacklon Ganding (27.08) to win gold in 26.69.
Chairat Taon, another Thai, took the bronze in 27.23.
Sakphet's win was one of 10 gold medals snagged by Thailand on the penultimate day of competition, a feat that saw them regain top spot in athletics' medal standings with 26 golds, 28 silvers and 20 bronzes.
But, with 10 gold medals on offer this morning, the final day of competition, Indonesia (25, 20, 15) and Malaysia (25, 16, 7) can still reach top spot.
- SHAMIR OSMAN