HANGZHOU: National track queen Shereen Samson Vallabouy ended Malaysia’s 17-year medal drought in Asian Games athletics when she gallantly hung in there to clinch bronze in the 400-metre (m) final tonight.

The 25-year-old may have been no match for the two Bahraini runners who made it a 1-2 finish, but Shereen deserves credit for running a lung-busting final 200m to cross the finish line third in 52.58 seconds (s) - a little slower than her national mark of 51.80s - at the Hangzhou Olympic Stadium. Bahrain’s Adekoya Oluwakemi Mujidat clocked 50.66s to take gold while compatriot Salwa Eid Naser (50.92s) settled for silver.

The US-based Shereen had advanced to the final after winning Heat 3 in the first round in 52.89s.

Malaysia last won a medal at the Asiad in the 2006 edition in Doha, Qatar through woman pole vaulter Roslinda Samsu (silver) and woman 400m hurdler Noraseela Mohd Khalid (bronze).

Datuk Rabuan Pit was the last Malaysian athletics gold medallist in the Asian Games when he won the men’s 100m final in the 1982 edition in New Delhi, India.

Shereen also managed to emulate the feat achieved by her mother, S. Josephine Mary as an Asian Games medallist. Josephine won two bronze medals - in the 800m at the 1986 edition in Seoul, South Korea and 4x400m at the 1990 edition in Beijing, China.

Shereen told reporters that she is thrilled to have achieved her target of wanting to mark her Asiad debut with a medal.

“It means a lot. Feels amazing to work really hard and be able to reach this stage, and win a medal for Malaysia. My mom and dad (Samson Vallabouy) were national athletes, it’s such an amazing feeling to follow in their footsteps and make them proud.

“Everyone was strong in the field... For me, I want to follow my execution because everyone has a different way of running (the) 400m, so that really helps me focus on my lane and how I am going to run my race.

“I think (I) had a great start, I pushed off really well and was able to maintain in the backstretch. The two Bahraini girls were really strong, I was able to use them as my pace-maker, and that really helped me,” she said.

Shereen will next compete in the women’s 4x100m relay after being listed among the six runners.

She will complete her 2023 race season once the Asiad is over by spending time with her family in Ipoh, Perak for six weeks before getting down to the serious business of hunting for a slot in the 2024 Paris Olympics.-Bernama

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