Day of reckoning

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

Its down to the last day of competitions at the Hanoi SEA Games and while Vietnam is safely at the top of the leader board with Thailand secure at No. 2, the battle for third remains unsettled. Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines are in a tight race to finish within the magic circle of three.

The calendar shows 16 sports left to be played today before the closing ceremonies. Basketball, billiards, boxing, cycling, e-sports, aerobic gymnastics, judo, muay, shooting, tennis, weightlifting, vovinam, indoor volleyball (men and women), mens football, fin swimming and badminton are scheduled to wind up. Of the 16 sports, the Philippines took gold medals in 10 in the previous SEA Games. Boxing has the most golds at stake with 13. The PhilippinesRogen Ladon, Ian Clark Bautista, Eumir Marcial and Irish Magno are in the boxing finals.

As of last Friday, the Philippines claimed golds in 20 sports compared to 44 in 2019. Of the 44 sports, 15 were struck out in Hanoi. Delisted were arnis, baseball, lawn bowls, modern pentathlon, obstacle course, rugby 7s, sailing, sambo, skateboarding, soft tennis, softball, squash, surfing, wakeboarding and windsurfing. The 15 sports accounted for 47 golds in 2019. Vietnamese organizers ignored six sports that were played in the Tokyo Olympics last yearbaseball, modern pentathlon, rugby 7s, sailing, skateboarding and surfing. They also took out polo, ice and indoor hockey, ice skating, waterskiing, underwater hockey, floorball, BMX cycling, traditional boat race, water polo and netball which were in the 2019 schedule. Instead, Hanoi brought in bodybuilding, vovinam, futsal, fin swimming and xiangqi.

Of the 20 sports where the Philippines struck paydirt, artistic gymnastics was the gold topnotcher with seven, five from Caloy Yulo. Athletics contributed five or six less than the haul in 2019. Dancesport also delivered five, down from 10 in 2019. The sports that brought gold in 2019 but failed to mint in Hanoi were golf, karate, rowing, shooting, wrestling, canoe/kayak and cycling. Golds are expected from basketball and boxing today.

Two sports that went without a gold in 2019 but came through in Hanoi were bowling and duathlon. Bowling did it in the mens team of four with Christian Dychangco, Ivan Malig, Patrick Nuqui and Merwin Tan and in mens singles with Tan. Marion Mangrobang bagged the gold in the womens individual duathlon. Wushu took a big drop from seven golds in 2019 to two, jiu jitsu from five to two and taekwondo from eight to two.

Lack of training and international exposure due to pandemic restrictions was a key factor that led to the drop in performance. But other countries faced the same predicament. Perhaps, some NSAs that overachieved in 2019 didnt prepare as hard, thinking the momentum would carry over. Perhaps, some NSAs delayed plans to develop fresh talent, relying on veterans to lead the charge. Surely, Hanois reconfigured calendar of sports had a major effect on the Philippinesmedal showing. Vietnam is the 10th host nation to win the overall championship in the last 14 SEA Games. Next year, Phnom Penh will host so the fight for first place should be wide open, considering Cambodia has never won the overall title. In the last three SEA Games where the host nation failed to win the overall crown (Brunei in 1999, Laos in 2009, Singapore in 2015), Thailand finished No. 1.


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