Move on? Not so fast
KUALA LUMPUR—Let’s move forward to the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.
That’s what Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Jose “Peping” Cojuangco Jr. hopes everyone will do now that the smoke is starting to clear on the collapse of the country’s campaign in the 29th Southeast Asian Games here.
“All of us, including the critics, should rally behind the 2019 Philippine hosting and support our athletes in any way we can,” said Cojuangco in a statement.
Cojuangco made no mention of the country’s performance in the biennial meet, where Team Philippines finished in sixth place on a collection of 24 golds, 33 silvers and 64 bronzes.
But moving on will have to wait, according to Philippine Sports Commission Chair Butch Ramirez.
“It is sad that out of so many Southeast Asian Games, there were times we were No. 6 but we had more golds, more medals,” Ramirez told the Inquirer. “Now it’s 24. It’s not something to be happy about, it’s another learning lesson, but a painful one. We really have to sit down and see where we are going.”
By any medal count metric produced by sports officials before the Games, the gold haul was paltry, to say the least.
It missed the target of 50 that chef de mission Cynthia Carrion pegged and it failed to improve on the number of gold medals won in the last edition of the SEA Games in Singapore.
With no golds produced on the final day, the Philippines ended with its worst share of gold medals in the biennial meet. The Philippines finished with 24 golds or less twice before but on both occasions, the gold medals at stake where far less than the number dangled in Kuala Lumpur.
In 1979 in Indonesia, the Philippines won 24 out of 227 gold medals. In 1999 in Brunei, Team Philippines collected 20 golds out of 233 at stake. There were 406 gold medals up for grabs in this year’s Games.
“We have to sit down seriously with our partners—the NSAs and the POC,” said Ramirez. “We have to give specific prescriptions immediately, strategies, because after the Southeast Asian Games we have to be ready with clear policies with our partners.”
The Philippines closed out its campaign here Wednesday with a fourth place finish by Kathryn Magno in 1,000-meter speed skating, one of the ice sports that debuted in this edition.
Malaysia handily won the overall title with 145 golds, 92 silvers and 86 bronzes. Thailand (72-86-88), Vietnam (58-50-60), Singapore (57-58-73) and Indonesia (38-63-90) finished ahead of the Philippines.
The Philippines tried to add to the gold count late Tuesday night with squash managing to get into the finals. But the team ended up settling for silvers in women’s doubles and men’s team.
It was nevertheless a breakthrough for the squad even if top player Robert Andrew Garcia admitted that the players could have done better against Singapore had they been running on more than just fumes.
The team played in five events throughout the week.
“Singapore team is very strong. And also because they have many players here. Each player plays one event,” said Garcia, who hacked out a victory in the country’s 2-1 loss in the men’s team.
The Philippines managed to salvage the 2019 SEA Games hosting after President Duterte changed his mind on plans to cancel the event because of the conflict in Marawi City in Mindanao.
But there wasn’t a formal turnover in the closing ceremony as the focus was on the host nation’s celebration of its 60th Merdeka or Independence Day.
The POC also opted not to pour money into a turnover ceremony. A total of P8.1 million was originally allocated for the turnover rites. —WITH A REPORT FROM JUNE NAVARRO IN MANILA