By Wong Chun Hao
HAVING finished third-best at the International Children’s Games in Iceland last June, Shahrir Mohd Anuar had his sights set on a bigger prize.
Within weeks, a 29-year-old national Under-15 record in the 100 metres sprint had fallen at his feet.
One year on at the Games in San Francisco, Shahrir finally erased the disappointment of the previous edition.
The 15-year-old struck gold on Sunday, clocking a wind-assisted 10.88 seconds to triumph in the boys’ 100m.
His closest rival, Jamaica’s Tevoughn Marsh, trailed by 0.33sec.
Shahrir’s run marked a personal best. It trails Timothy Yeo and Poh Seng Song’s national U-17 record by just 0.18sec.
The irrepressible Shahrir went on to seal a three-gold haul, leading teammates Jared Lim, Luqman Zamrot and Vivekanand Gopal to victory in the 4x100m and 4x400m relays over their English and American rivals.
His triple triumph capped an excellent showing from the Singapore Sports School contingent, who secured top spot in the medal tally with eight golds.
Beijing (seven golds) and Seoul (six) were second and third.
Singapore’s success was achieved against fellow youths aged 12 to 15, with 1,500 representing 100 cities.
Besides the track athletes, swimmers and paddlers also put in winning performances.
Clement Lim, 15, and Dzulhaili Mohamed Kamal, 14, triumphed in the 200-yard
individual medley and 50-yard backstroke respectively.
They also won the 4×100 yards freestyle relay with the help of Mattias Ng and Jonathan Poh.
Pang Xue Jie, 15, and Isabelle Li, 13, rounded off the gold medal haul in the table tennis singles events.
The team also collected three bronzes to bring the overall tally to 11 medals.
Their achievement came as a pleasant surprise to Sports School director of sports Dr Irwin Seet.
Previous gold-medal yields totalled five in 2006 and 2007.
Five was also this year’s target, having considered the strong competition from Chinese and American cities, said Dr Seet.
However, competition rules might have benefited the team. Apart from hosts San
Francisco, delegations are limited to 16 athletes each.
Teams thus tend to focus on pet events and, in Singapore’s case, it paid off.
Nevertheless, this international experience, according to Dr Seet, is crucial for the development of young athletes. “These Games give our students valuable exposure and help them raise the bar in sports,” he said.