As the curtain fell on the Philippines 2019 Southeast Asian (Sea) Games on Wednesday, Cambodia celebrated after taking home a much larger medal haul than in the previous edition in Kuala Lumpur.
The Kingdom bagged four gold, six silver and 36 bronze medals to finish eighth in the 11-nation medal table, up from the three golds, two silvers and 12 bronzes won in Malaysia in 2017.
Vath Chamroeun, the Cambodian chief of mission at the Sea Games, said that though the improved medal haul was a great achievement, it fell short of the planned number of golds as the Kingdom gears up to host the regional sporting showpiece in 2023.
“Winning these medals is down to the ability of the winners. They showed their will to win. Winning four gold medals, six silver medals and 36 bronze medals is a better achievement than at the 29th SEA Games in 2017 in Malaysia in which we won only three gold medals, two silver medals and 12 bronze medals.
“Though Cambodia won more medals than in Malaysia, this improved return of gold medals did not quite meet our ambitions. We planned to win 10 gold medals as Cambodia sets it sights on hosting the 32th SEA Games in 2023,” Chamroeun said
Notable highlights included the Kingdom’s taekwondo sensation Sorn Seavmey’s third Sea Games gold – her fourth medal at the event after bronze in her first outing in 2011 – and Jessa Khan’s gilded performance in jiu-jitsu.
The women’s petanque players continued their dominance with gold for the triples team of Sreng Sorakhim, Khoun Yary, Duong Dina and substitute En Sreya, while bokator practitioner Yong Merngly adapted in spectacular fashion to the Philippine martial art arnis to defeat home favourite Billy Joel Valenzuela to claim gold.
The Philippines easily topped the medal table with 149 golds, continuing a rich tradition at the regional Olympics whose flexible sporting programme is usually skewed in the hosts’ favour.
The Philippines’ best ever haul comes after they dominated all debut sports at the 30th Sea Games, and reintroduced their national martial art of arnis whose only previous showing was in Manila in 2005.
The previous best for the country was a total of 112 golds achieved at Manila 2005, followed by 91 in 1991 – also in Manila.
But the Philippines is only following a trend at the biennial Games, where eight of the last 12 editions have finished with the hosts on top of the medals table.
Despite the Filipino gold rush, the hosts fell well short of the record number of wins which remains Indonesia’s huge haul of 194 in Jakarta in 1997.
Thailand won 183 on home soil in 2007, and Indonesia bagged 182 when the Games returned to Jakarta and Palembang in 2011. Vietnam secured 158 at Hanoi 2003, while Thailand got 157 in Chiang Mai in 1995.
The 2019 Games ended on Wednesday with a rocking closing ceremony in the 20,000-seater purpose-built stadium in Clark.
Around 8,750 athletes and officials took part in the biggest ever Sea Games across 10 days of competition, involving sportsmen and women from 11 countries in venues across Clark, Manila and Subic in the country’s north.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP