[Editor's Note: SPIN.ph continues its countdown to the 2019 Southeast Asian Games with a rundown of the greatest moments by Philippine athletes in the biennial event. Here's the first of a 10-part series]
THEY say the first is always the best.
And it can’t be truer than in the case of the Philippines when it celebrated its first-ever overall championship during the 2005 Southeast Asian Games.
Hosting the biennial meet for the third time since joining the Games in 1977, the Filipinos didn’t waste the golden opportunity to shoot for the top after almost coming close of finally winning it 14 years before during the ‘Miracle of 91’ campaign.
With former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo at the helm of the country’s campaign as Team Philippines’ Chef De Mission, the host garnered its biggest gold medal haul in SEA Games history with a runaway total of 113 as it bested perennial champion Thailand and dethroned Vietnam as the new king of the region.
Dubbed ‘Golden Drive in 05,’ it remains to this date the greatest moment for the Philippines in SEA Games annals.
It was backed by a P160 million budget raised through the ‘Godfather’ scheme initiated by the First Gentleman, an avid sportsman who initiated a pledging session at Malacanang where members of the private sector contributed funds that were used for the training of around 800 athletes.
The combat sport of wushu led Team Philippines in reciprocating the generosity of its benefactors by producing the most number of golds, topping 11 out of 22 events at stake in the sport.
Athletics also did its share by winning nine golds, followed by boxing with eight to beat longtime rival Thailand for the overall title, along with billiards, while taekwondo and traditional boat race added six each, and the duo of fencing and tennis contributing five, respectively.
Despite some controversies that marred the Games and the exclusion of basketball, the sport closest to the Filipinos’ hearts – following the FIBA suspension of the Basketball Association of the Philippines, forerunner of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) – from the meet’s calendar of events, the euphoria behind the country’s success far outweighed the negatives.