Filipino dominance in Malaysia's Sungai Menyala
Philippines' Asia Trail Master champion Manolito Divina was again a class on his own in Port Dickson, Malaysia, as he beat a strong field over 50km in the Sungai Menyala Forest Trail. Divina took command early on as his pace on the fast course was too high for the competition. He finished the race, which did have a number of technical sections, in 4h27'30". It's Divina's second ATM win of the season after Rizal Mountain Run, and with 1000 points in the bag again features up front in the provisional championship ranking.
A few runners have already finished more races than him this year. Indonesia's Arief Wismoyono has actually regained the points lead thanks to his third place in Sungai Menyala. The Bandung Explorer ace, 2015 ATM champion, has clearly returned to his best form this year. He had to succumb to local runner Steven Oong, joint winner of UTKC last February, for second place, but never really lost ground and kept a high running pace. In fourth was Spain's Pablo Diago Gonzales. He'll be one to watch in the coming months, too. Pablo has only just resumed training, and will be one of the race favourites at the upcoming Mt Apo Sky Race in Davao at the end of this month. Indonesia-based Malaysian Eric Chooi was an excellent fifth ahead of compatriot Yim Heng Fatt, who moves up to third place in the ATM championship ranking.
The women's race was dominated by another Filipino star, the 28-year-old Sandi Menchi. In the absence of ATM champion Tahira Najmunisaa, Menchi had no match in Malaysia and even finished the race fourth overall - ahead of Pablo Diago Gonzales! With two race victories in the bag already this year, she is becoming hot for the championship title. Tahira, of course, already has three race victories in the bag this year and could afford to pull out. The Malaysian star won a 30k road race on Saturday, but sustained a mild injury in doing so and preferred not to take chances. The season is still long.
Second place went to her teammate at Team Malatra, Sabah's Jessica Lintanga, who actually delivered a strong and balanced performance to edge out Singapore's running star Jeri Chua at the end of the race. Lintanga saw Chua pulling away from her early on in the race, but came back and proved that she as well is getting stronger and more confident race by race. Her sister Adelinah Lintanga took fourth place.
Sungai Menyala was a fast race, yet more than tough enough due to the heat and a number of technical and swampy sections. Confirmed for 2018, this is a great event for quick legs and weekend trippers. Port Dickson has easy access to both KL and Sepang Airport, and the organisation committee has announced that in 2018 there will be a new big loop of 50k.
On our facebook you can watch photos and video footage of the winner's arrival, as well as interviews with some of the protagonists (including Tahira on her DNS decision).
The next points race is Korea 50k on 23 April, followed by UT Nepal two days later.