SINGAPORE — Race walking has been Edmund Sim’s passion for close to two decades, but after a Rio Olympics wildcard fiasco last year that saw him missing out on the Games, the 33-year-old stopped walking.
Sim, the national record-holder in the event (1hr 34min 49sec), had initially been a frontrunner for the wildcard after Singapore Athletics’ proposal to change its criteria to consider national record breakers and 2015 SEA Games gold medallists. But an eleventh-hour about-turn saw the spot handed to sprinter Timothee Yap.
“I was so sad after losing the Rio slot that I focused solely on running and kept myself out of race walking,” said Sim.
“I tried to pick myself up again. I went to Cape Town last October and jumped into a race after my friends persuaded me to join. But I couldn’t finish because I was unwell and wasn’t in good walking shape.”
After a six-month hiatus, Sim decided to sign up for 5th Age Group Race Walking Competition in February, where he earned his ticket to Japan for the Asian 20km Race Walking Championships. After an intensive, and “painful” four-week training programme, Sim clocked 1:36:53 in a season’s best at the Asian meet last Sunday, with the achievement also qualifying him for the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games in August.
This will be Sim’s second appearance at the biennial meet, after he finished last in 2015 in 1:53:15 while recovering from an injury.
Sim added: “Actually, I didn’t know that I had qualified until my team manager and my friends told me.
“I had a good day … Having a cohesive team and helpful team official this year helped too. I always enjoy racing in Japan. From the nice weather to great friends, everything is great and I always look forward (to it).”
Sim’s qualifying time is quicker than Vietnamese walker Vo Xuan Vinh’s 2015 SEA Games silver medal mark of 1:38:38, but the Singaporean is not focused on the podium at the moment.
“I will think about it (my goal) as I recover from Sunday’s race and gradually get myself in touch with racewalking again,” he said.
Nine track-and-field athletes have qualified for the Malaysia SEA Games to date, with China-born thrower Du Xianhui to be added to the list after Singapore Athletics verifies her qualifying mark in the women’s shot put.
The current SEA Games squad includes men’s marathon gold medallists Soh Rui Yong and Mok Ying Ren, women’s 200m gold medallist Shanti Pereira, seven-time gold medallist (discus and shot put) Zhang Guirong, and hurdler Dipna Lim-Prasad, who won silver in the women’s 400m hurdles in Singapore two years ago.