Singapore's Kalai Vanen reacts after winning the bronze medal [Photo by Sport Singapore / Action Images via Reuters]
Kalai Vanen won the Republic’s first medal in powerlifting on Tuesday and could barely conceal the emotion.
With a best lift of 140 kg, he came in third placed behind champion Jong Yee Khie of Malaysia, who set a new Games record with a lift of 200 kg, and runner-up Tongsang Prakrit of Thailand in the under 97 kg category.
Winning his first medal on home soil with a roaring home crowd cheering him on left Vanen on the verge of tears.
“I was excited. Tears came to my eyes when I saw my flag go up, but because there were so many people, I just tried to hold it back,” he said.
After a successful first lift of 140 kg, Vanen tried to break his unofficial personal record of 150 kg as he attempted a lift of 152 kg, but he failed to tick all the boxes required for a successful lift.
“In IPC Powerlifting, it is a very technical sport. Even if you have the strength the push the weight up, you need to nail the technical aspect of it like having the bar motionless on your chest and locking out together,” said Muhammad Hidayat, Vanen’s coach.
“Any small mistakes along the way that you make during the lift, it might affect the final result.”
Being an ASEAN Para Games debutant, Vanen said having his teammate Melvyn Yeo compete first helped him prepare for his own event.
“I just transposed myself to where he was at that point of time and tried to play through that scene where I myself was lifting,” he said.
“So he did me a big favour by being the first one to lift so that I could see exactly where I would be at that point.”
Coming into this competition, the Team Singapore powerlifter no doubt wanted to win a medal for his country, but his main objective was actually to prepare for the upcoming 2016 Paralympics in Brazil.