Reported by The Star, 26 September 2005
By NG WEI LOON
It was a different roller-coaster ride for 300 walkers, including 60 foreigners from 20 countries, who took part in the Malaysia International 24-Hour Walk at the Genting Highlands Outdoor Theme Park.
Instead of enjoying a short burst of adrenalin rush on a roller-coaster at the theme park, they had to endure the pain and agony of having to walk around the 876m circuit for 24 hours at an altitude of more than 1,800m (6,000 feet).
Several participants were seen staggering during the final stages of the race. After the race, several of them could hardly sit down due to exhaustion and fatigue.
Zagryazhskaya Irina from Russia, who won the women's Open in 2001, set a record winning distance of 176.88km on this occasion.
Irina finished four laps ahead of runner-up M.S. Vander Meer from Holland who did 173.38km. Tarasevich Marina from Belarus was third (163.74km).
“I like walking in Genting as it has a scenic landscape,” said the 33-year-old Russian, who competes in three to four 24-hour walks a year.
The foreign walkers who turned up came from as far as Mauritius, Germany, Denmark, Czechoslovakia, Spain, Belarus, Riussia, Belgium, Ghana, Oman, Singapore, France, Hong Kong, Australia, Holland, Denmark, Sri Lanka, Japan, United States, United Kingdom and Nigeria.
In the men's Open, Czechoslovakian Simon Zdenek emerged champion when he walked 218 laps, two laps ahead of defending champion Jose Mora Bernardo from Spain.
Zdenek covered a distance of 190.9km to improve on his third place finish in 2001. Runner-up Bernando did 189.15km. Belgium's Alexander Vandenhoeck (185.64km) was third.
“My strategy was to stay with the leading pack. After I was penalised, I stepped up the pace as I had to work harder to compensate for the penalty. It was a pleasant experience racing on a flat course here,” said Zdenek.
The event offered RM45,000 in prize money to the top 20 winners in the individual categories and the top three teams.
In the individual categories, the champions walked away with RM6,000 while the runner-up and third placed winners received RM4,000 and RM2,500 respectively.
Armed Forces' Mohd Hanizam Harun and Yap Wai Mun were Malaysia's best performers in the men's and women's sections respectively. Hanizam finished in eighth place (167.25km) while Yap finished sixth (133.96km).
“I took part in a 12-hour walk in Penang earlier this year. I wanted to break into the top 10. I am glad that I managed to achieve my target in Genting,” said Hanizam, 28.
A total of 11 teams took part in the team event. Debutants Singapore Amateur Athletic Association (SAAA), comprising S. Thiagaraja, R. Subramaniam, Chong Fui Fong and Low May Ling, led from start to finish in their 204.92km effort.
Race Walkers Association of Malaysia (RWAM) completed 198.78km and finished second. Sahn Hahng Tai Bo A from Hong Kong were third (189.15km).
The event was organised by the RWAM and supported by the Youth and Sports Ministry and the Federal Territory Amateur Athletic Association.
Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Azalina Othman, who gave away the prizes to the winners, praised the participants for their months of dedicated preparation for this gruelling race.
Olympic Council of Malaysia secretary- general Datuk Sieh Kok Chi and organising chairman Datuk Peter Chin were also present at the prize presentation ceremony.
Men's Open: 1. Simon Zdenek (Cze) 218 laps (190.9km), 2. Jose Mora Bernardo (Esp) 216 laps (189.15km), 3. Alexander Vandenhoeck (Bel) 212 laps (185.64km)
Women's Open: 1. Zagryazhskaya Irina (Rus) 202 laps (176.88km), 2. M.S. Vander Meer (Ned) 198 laps (173.38km), 3. Tarasevich Marina (Blr) 187 laps (163.74km)
Team: 1. Singapore Amateur Athletic Association (Spore) 234 laps (204.92km), 2. Race Walkers Association of Malaysia (Mas) 227 laps (198.78km), 3. Sahn Hahng Tai Bo A (HK) 216 laps (189.15km)