POC expresses dismay at one-sided Cambodia SEAG events
Cambodia will mount the biggest Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in history with a massive program of events, but the Philippines isn’t happy about it.
Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Abraham “Bambol’’ Tolentino couldn’t hide his dismay when Cambodian organizers recently announced with finality the 608-event, 49-sport calendar of the 32nd SEA Games in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap from May 5 to 16 next year.
Tolentino said the host nation has imposed a rule that only Cambodia could field a 100-percent participation in combat sports and martial arts, while restricting the 10 other countries to participate in just 70 percent of the events in the sport.
“That benefits the host best, while putting at risk our chances for the medals,’’ said Tolentino, who raised a howl on the specific rule and was the most vocal during the SEA Games Federation meetings.
He said Cambodia would mimic Malaysia’s staging of the 2017 Games in Kuala Lumpur where the host gained a similar advantage.
“Our athletes should focus harder and train more to get to the podium,’’ said Tolentino, wary that it would be an uphill climb for Filipino athletes to collectively retain or better their fourth-place overall finish at the 31st SEA Games in Hanoi, Vietnam, this year.
Cambodia nearly excluded the women’s 50 kilograms class in karate where Filipino-Japanese Junna Tsukii is the present World Games champion and a former SEAG gold medalist, but the host country later reconsidered.
Exercising its privilege, Cambodia entered two indigenous sports—Kun Bokator, a form of martial art practiced by the ancient Khmer military, and Ouk Chatrang, a Khmer chess match. These sports will dangle 21 and six gold medals, respectively.
Tolentino likewise noted the limited four gold medals at stake—two for each gender—in artistic gymnastics, which basically has eight events for the men and six for women in the Olympics and world championships.
“Gymnastics alone means several potential golds our world champion Caloy [Yulo] won’t have a shot at,’’ said Tolentino.
Cambodia has also positioned itself at a favorable vantage point along with its neighbor Vietnam in vovinam and fin swimming with 30 and 24 events, respectively.
Tolentino said the POC would “dissect’’ the events before coming up with the country’s entry by numbers and stressed the aim for a full participation in terms of the number of sports.
The Philippines held the record for the most number of sports at 56 but with 530 events in 2019, while Vietnam had a 40-sport, 526-event Games last May. Brunei owns the record-low program of 22 sports and 233 events in 1999. INQ
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