Photo by Jane Bracher/Rappler
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – With the last Filipino athlete, speed skater Kath Magno, missing the podium on Wednesday, August 30, the Philippines officially crashed to its worst finish in the Southeast Asian Games since 1999.
The Philippines wrapped up the 2017 SEA Games here with a medal tally of 24 golds, 33 silvers, and 64 bronzes for 6th place on the table.
The Filipino delegation of over 400 athletes failed to match its 29-gold medal output from the 2015 and 2013 Games, despite setting a target of 50 gold medals for this year.
The country collected only 20 gold medals, to go with 26 silvers and 41 bronzes, in 1999 in Brunei.
The last time the Philippines had a very strong finish was when it hosted in 2005 – with 113 golds, 84 silvers, and 94 bronzes. And since then the gold medal haul has significantly dipped for every edition to its lowest this year.
Philippine Olympic Committee president Jose "Peping" Cojuangco asked in a statement that sports fans put the disappointing 2017 campaign behind them and instead look ahead to 2019, when the Philippines again hosts the Games.
"All of us, including the critics, should rally behind the 2019 Philippine hosting and support the athletes in any way we can," he was quoted as saying.
2019 SEA Games Organizing Committee Chairman Alan Peter Cayetano has also called for sports officials to "act like a team" and focus on rebuilding the country's floundering sports program not just for 2019, but for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and beyond.
Host Malaysia dominated and picked up most of the golds at a whopping 145, to go with 92 silvers, and 86 bronze medals.
The pressure is now on the Philippines to deliver come 2019, when there will be few excuses for a subpar showing.
So far Cayetano said the venues are likely to include New Clark City, Bulacan, and Zambales. They will also aim to strike a balance between fairness and using the rules to its advantage when it comes to the liberty the Philippines will have in deciding which sports will be included in the lineup.
But before that, the Philippines will still try to bounce back in the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games from September 15 to 24 in Turkmenistan, where many of the SEA Games athletes will be competing again.
There is also the Asian Games in Indonesia next year to focus on.
Malaysia wraps up this edition of the SEA Games Wednesday night with what is expected to be an extravagant closing ceremony similar to its opener. – Rappler.com