SEA Games: Indonesia surges ahead in medals table
JAKARTA—Indonesia’s athletes delighted home fans early Sunday by extending their commanding lead in the Southeast Asian Games medals table with more golds, as crucial badminton and football matches loomed later.
The hosts struck gold on Saturday with first places in the men’s and women’s 100 metres races and a hatful of wins in karate and roller sports leading their medal charge.
The glut of golds carried on into Sunday with braces in both roller racing and canoeing – held at the Cipule Lake venue outside co-host city Jakarta which suffered from construction delays in the run-up to the competition.
That took Indonesia to 30 golds and an overall tally of 64 medals, increasing their lead over Singapore, in second place on nine golds.
Fancied nations Thailand and Malaysia faced criticism in their domestic media for sluggish early performances, with just 11 golds between them.
Malaysia’s New Straits Times lamented their athletes’ “slow start,” while Thailand’s well-supported footballers have been hammered after failing to shine in their two group games.
Malaysia was facing defeat in its women’s team badminton semi-final tie Sunday, 2-1 down to Indonesia with two matches to play in an intensely partisan arena. )
Indonesia’s Olympic badminton gold medallists Markis Kido and Hendra Setiawan were preparing to play Thailand in semi-finals later, while the same two countries were also set to clash in the football group stage in the evening.
The home nation’s in-form footballers are seeking a third group game win on the trot after convincing victories over Cambodia and Singapore.
But the Thais are battling to avoid an early exit from the under-23s tournament after a lackluster start to their campaign, which has seen them lose to defending champions Malaysia and beat a dismal Cambodia.
“We’re not out yet,” team manager Kasem Jariyawatwong was quoted by Thailand’s The Nation newspaper as saying.
“We have two matches left to fight for our survival. We were down when we saw what people thought about our performance on the Internet, we’ll keep fighting,” he said, adding he expected to face a “cauldron” of home fans.
Thailand’s athletes have so far struggled to repeat their form of 2009 when they secured regional bragging rights by topping the medals table, but were boosted by two early golds Sunday in canoeing.
Indonesia was awarded the Games in 2006, but the government had been criticized for failing to release cash to organizing committee Inasoc to build venues, causing an embarrassing delay to the athletes’ village in co-host Palembang.
In an echo of India’s graft-hit Commonwealth Games last year, the ruling party’s treasurer allegedly pocketed $3 million in bribes from a firm seeking tenders, and then fled to Colombia with the spoils.
By Sunday the raft of problems appeared to have died down with athletes focused on the competition, although there were reports of food poisoning hitting Malaysian and Singaporean teams in Palembang.
The biennial Games are big news in Southeast Asia, capturing the imagination of the competing nations, with dozens of gold medals and regional sporting supremacy at stake.