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Saturday, February 24, 2024

SEAG moments: Rock-star Reyes, Thai faster than Bolt

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HANOI—The 31st SEA Games in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi close later Monday after nearly two weeks of records, adulation and marriage proposals.

AFP Sport picks out five memorable moments:

Rock-star treatment

Efren Reyes of the Philippines was given the kind of reception usually more associated with rock stars than ageing pool players.

The Philippines’ Efren Reyes competes against Vietnam’s Tran Quyet Chien in men’s billiards 3-cushion event. AFP

With more than 100 professional titles to his name in a career spanning over four decades, the 67-year-old was mobbed by young fans eager to get a closer look and a selfie whenever their hero showed up.

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Despite bowing out early from one event, hundreds of fans still chased the veteran player known as the ‘Magician’ as he left the building under a heavy security escort. “I love you!” they shouted as he waved regally from a bus.

He left the Games with one bronze.

Faster than Bolt

Thai teenager Puripol Boonson blitzed the field in the men’s 100m and 200m to underline his status as a possible global sprint star of the future.

The 16-year-old twice broke the Games 200m record, his best time of 20.37secs sealing his first gold, and the fastest man (or teenager) in Southeast Asia is said to have run a 100m career best of 10.19sec.

Thailand’s Puripol Boonson celebrates with his time after winning the gold medal in the men’s 200m race during the 31st SEA Games.

“I have never seen someone from Asia move like that and at that age,” said retired sprinter U.K. Shyam, Singapore’s 100m national record-holder, according to The Straits Times.

“Just think: his time means he’s faster than Usain Bolt was when Bolt was 16.”

Golden timing

A sport not usually associated with romance, a married Vietnamese chess couple each won gold in their categories at almost the same time.

Playing for the men’s and women’s rapid titles, Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son and his wife Pham Le Thao Nguyen claimed gold in their chess matches just minutes apart.

“We were always together in training. We supported and shared difficulties together,” Truong Son, 32, the youngest Vietnamese to be named a grandmaster, said.

“Now is the time for us to celebrate together.”

Stadium proposals

There was something in the air too at Hanoi’s My Dinh stadium.

Days after a spectator got down on one knee to ask his partner’s hand in marriage at the opening ceremony—she said yes—Vietnamese long jumper Nguyen Tien Trong did likewise with partner Nguyen Thi Phuong Trinh.

The sepak takraw competitor also said yes to cap quite a day for Trong—earlier he won gold for the hosts.

Football frenzy

Thousands of Vietnamese poured into the streets across the country after the Games hosts beat Thailand 1-0 for men’s football gold.

Forward Nham Manh Dung was the hero with an 83rd-minute header that arrowed into the top corner and sent the capacity 40,000 crowd into a frenzy.

Afterwards, fans waving Vietnamese flags and blasting air horns clogged the roads of Hanoi and beyond in an outpouring of national pride.

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