NEW CLARK CITY – Team Philippines fulfilled its promise and emerged as the king of the biggest Southeast Asian Games in history.
For the past two weeks, the 1,400-strong Filipino contingent battled and competed against the best and the finest in the region for the 529 gold medals at stake in a total of 56 sports spread out in various clusters.
The collective effort produced the largest medal haul the country had in the biennial meet since it started participating in 1977 - 149 golds, 117 silvers, and 120 bronzes – all record numbers – to reclaim the overall championship it last held in 2005 when the Games were also held here.
The big guns such as track and field, taekwondo, wushu, boxing, basketball, billiards, gymnastics, judo, triathlon, muay, rowing, and cycling delivered the goods as expected, and were responsible for a quarter of the total gold medals won by the host.
There were also those which proved to be revelations and came with their own contributions, sports like arnis, dance sports, obstacle sports, jui-jitsu, esports, and skateboarding. Arnis and dance sports accounted for a total of 24 golds alone in the first three days of competitions, setting the tone for the Filipinos’ rise to the of the medal count that eventually led to winning back the Games’ overall title.
And then there were also those which failed to meet expectations and fell short of their goals, among them bowling, chess, traditional boat racing, archery, ice skating, and men’s softball.
Below are some of the sports which overachieved and underachieved in the country’s fourth hosting of the SEA Games.
1. ARNIS – the sport made the most out of its return 14 years since it was last played in the meet, winning 14 of the 20 golds at stake to emerge as the most accomplished contingent in the Philippine team. Its success prompted Philippine Eskrima Kali Arnis Federation (PEKAF) president Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri to lobby for the inclusion of the sport as a regular event in the biennial meet.
TRACK AND FIELD – the Filipino tracksters almost doubled the six-gold medal projection made by the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa) by running away with 11 golds at the end of competitions. The host finished just third overall in the sport behind Vietnam and Thailand, but its total output was the most in the post-Gintong Alay days when the Philippines enjoyed its golden years in athletics. There were some setbacks along the way, but somehow these were offset by the Filipinos establishing four of the eight new meet records registered.
DANCE SPORT – Dance sport sparked the gold rush for the host, accounting for 10 golds outright on the first official day of competitions. It also produced just two of the triple medal winners for Team Philippines in the pair of Sean Micha Aranar and Ana Leonila Nualla (standard) and Wilbert Aunzon and Pearl Marie Caneda (latin).
SKATEBOARDING – the country further proved it has promise in the sport after winning six golds in its maiden stint in the Games, two of them courtesy of Asian Games champion Margielyn Didal.
OBSTACLE SPORTS – the sport was almost scrapped in this year’s SEA Games’ calendar of events after it failed to attract participation from majority of the 11-member countries and later, the absence of a playing venue. But that didn’t hinder members of the national team from completing a six-gold sweep of the competitions.
JUI-JITSU – another sport that is in its maiden SEA Games stint but managed to shine just the same, delivering five golds right away led by world champion Meggie Ochoa, considered the face of jui-jitsu in the country.
BOWLING – Once a gold mine for the country in the SEA Games, bowling is suddenly in the doldrums and failed to bag a single gold. It ended up claiming a silver and bronze medal as it finished dead-last in the five-team field. Its last gold came in the 2011 edition of the meet courtesy of Frederick Ong in the men’s singles event.
CHESS – the sport went home medal-less despite holding the proud distinction of having produced Asia’s first ever grandmaster. It was also in 2011 when it last won a gold in the meet (individual blitz) courtesy of someone who no longer represents the country in international competitions – grandmaster Wesley So.
ICE SKATING – for a sport that takes prides in its huge collection of golds from various international competitions, it was surprising that it failed to win a single gold in the meet, settling for just two silvers and a single bronze.
TRADITIONAL DRAGON BOAT – a regular contributor to Team Philippines’ golden coffer not only in the region but on the world stage as well, the sport came away empty-handed with only two bronze medals to show. Dragon boat has not won a SEA Games gold since it topped the men’s 1,500-meter race in 2011 in Indonesia.
MEN’S SOFTBALL – the Blu Boys absorbed a shock loss to Singapore in the final, 6-1, and failed to go up the golden podium for the first time since the 1997 SEA Games when it last lost the title to Indonesia. Initially, the team beat the Singaporeans in the first round, 8-0, but dropped a 4-3 decision in the semifinals.