MANILA, Philippines – Amid allegations of corruption and overspending, logistical mishaps, and the reported displacement of indigenous groups, the country managed to pull off its hosting of a key regional sporting event and ended its 2019 Southeast Asian Games campaign as overall champion on home soil.
At the "Champion Summit" press conference held at the Conrad Hotel Manila in Pasay City on Tuesday, December 17, Filipino athletes expressed hope that they could repeat their feat in the Vietnam SEA Games in 2021 with continued support from the Philippine Sports Commission.
"They (PSC) made a way for us to get proper training. That was really important for us. So hopefully, we still get that kind of preparation by the next SEA Games in Vietnam. We also hope that we still get the same support if not more support," said men’s water polo team member Roy Cañete.
Cynthia Carrion Norton, who serves as both a POC executive board member and president of the Gymnastics Association of the Philippines, is confident that the Philippines could replicate its most recent SEA Games feat in the future.
“It’s a little different now. Our facilities now are nice. The government built wonderful facilities for our athletes. They’re bringing them abroad, and they saw what our organizing committee went through to make sure everything goes practically well,” she said. (READ: Colorful, dramatic: The highs and lows of SEA Games 2019)
“So I know, I’ve spoken to the athletes just now. I hope we will not go down. I know they are well motivated. I know they will continue the fight," she added.
Filipino athletes hauled a total of 387 medals, including 149 golds – the most out of the 11 nations that competed in 56 sports over 500 events. It is likewise the highest output in the event's 60-year history, beating the Philippines' previous best finish in the 2005 edition when it hauled in 112 gold medals.
Johanna “Jowi” Uy of the Philippine women’s underwater hockey team crossed her fingers for a long-term plan of support.
“We have always found a way to support ourselves. This year, we are really so happy to have the Philippine Sports Commission behind us. I think the continued support of the government to continue to give us the facilities will continue to bring the sport further," said Uy, who was part of the underwater hockey squad that finished second in the tourney.
While the PSC and the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) have the remaining days of 2019 to savor the euphoria of the successful SEA Games bid, keeping the country’s winning mystique intact is their next task right after the new year as the multi-sport competition heads to Vietnam in 2021.
It has become a sort of a pattern in the SEA Games that host countries would bring in a big haul of gold medals, but when they lose hometown advantage and intricately-curated sports events, they would underperform in the following years.
Fourteen years ago, the Philippines also topped medal tally with 112 golds, but it dropped to sixth place with only 41 gold medals in Thailand in 2007 and became a perennial occupant of that spot until 2017. – Rappler.com