Shereen kicks off bid for Olympic spot


Shereen storms to the front in the 400m final at the 2023 SEA Games held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. — Bernama file photo

KUCHING (April 1): National 400m runner Shereen Samson clocked a creditable time to launch her campaign to qualify for the 2024 Olympics.

The 25-year-old, who is based in the US, clocked 52.29sec to finish third in a Florida track & field championships over the weekend.

The meet is among the earliest competitions in the US outdoor season. Shereen was not active in the just concluded indoor season. Instead the recent graduate of Winona State University chose to take a rest before resuming training after a stellar season in 2023.

The Perak-born has a personal best (PB) of 51.80s set in the US last April. The following month she won the gold medal in the Cambodia  SEA Games with a time of 52.53s. A slight injury did not stop her from finishing third in 52.58s at the Hangzhou Asian Games held in Sept. The Olympic qualifying time is 50.95s for the women’s 400m.

Muhd Azeem Fahmi, who was the bronze medalist in the 100m at the 2023 Asian Games, is Malaysia’s only other hopeful to compete in athletics at the Paris Olympics. The 19-year-old, who is studying and training at Auburn University in the US, has a PB of 10.09s. He has to run 10.00s to qualify for the Olympics by merit.

No Malaysian track and field athlete has ever won a medal or entered a final in Olympic history. Only two have made it to the semi-finals. Mani Jegathesan did it twice in the 200m at the 1964 Tokyo and the 1968 Mexico City Games. His time of 20.92s at the 1968 edition stood as the national record for 49 years. Three-time Olympian Istiaq Mubarak (PB: 14.08s in the 110m hurdles) ran 14.27s to qualify for the semi-finals at the 1976 Montreal Games.

Can Malaysia end its 48-year wait for a third athlete to enter an Olympic semi-final? The first part of the answer rests on Shereen or Azeem or both qualifying to run in Paris by the end of June.