Yulo stands out, Gilas men disappoint in Hanoi
(UPDATED) Despite stop-and-go preparations in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, Filipino athletes finished the 31st Southeast Asian Games with one of their most productive showings away from their home country.
Thanks to the Gilas women’s basketball squad and a late push by boxers Ian Clark Bautista, Rogen Ladon, and Olympic medalist Eumir Marcial, the country scooped up four more gold medals on Sunday to end up with 51 gold medals and more than 200 overall in these Games.
Late on Sunday, a Muay Thai gold medal was credited to the Philippines after organizers sided with the sport’s national federation protesting the result of the 57kg men’s event.
Phillip Delarmino was thus awarded first place – the country’s 52nd gold overall – while Vietnam’s Nguyen Doan Long was relegated to runner-up.
As far as collecting mints goes, that’s good for fourth place overall, behind host Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia, which finished in that order.
Singapore and Malaysia round out the Top 6.
Since the 2003 Games held also in Vietnam – when the event expanded to 11 countries with the inclusion of Timor Leste – this is the best result by the Philippines in a SEA Games that it did not host.
In 2003, the Philippines placed fourth with 48 gold medals.
Butch Ramirez, chairman of the Philippine Sports Commission, has said that what happens in the long term matters more than where the country lands in the medal rankings these Games.
“We must remind everyone that our taking part in the Vietnam SEA Games has a bearing in our build-up to our competing in bigger international competitions such as the Asian Games and Olympics. Let us look at the bigger picture,” Ramirez said in a statement Saturday.
“Let us not judge or criticize our athletes who have competed and are still competing in Vietnam. Let us not discourage them and continue to support them all the way.
“There will be a time and place for that.”
Besides Marcial, Olympians Hidilyn Diaz and EJ Obiena lived up to expectations, topping their respective events.
But it was Caloy Yulo who emerged as the most decorated Filipino athlete in Hanoi, seizing the gold in the individual all-around, the floor exercise, the still rings, the vault, and the high bar events, which went with a pair of silver medals.
In basketball, while the women’s team continued ruling the region, coach Chot Reyes and the Gilas Pilipinas squad lost in an 85-81 stunner to Indonesia, which will go down as one of the most ignominious defeats in the country’s hoops history.
This was the third time the Filipinos did not go all the way to the crown in a competition they’ve been favored to win all the time.
The only other occasions the 18-time champions failed to get the gold were in 1979 and 1989, where they settled for silver.
In non-Olympic events, success in billiards, dancesports, triathlon, combat sports such as kickboxing and jiu-jitsu, and esports via the Sibol squad helped to push the Philippines’ gold-medal count.
The 51 gold medals the Philippines copped in the past two weeks were a far cry from the 149 it won as hosts in 2019.
But in a regional sports event where it is common for the home country to take a massive portion of available medals, the Filipinos still outdid themselves in Vietnam.
In the SEA Games between 2005 and 2019 – the years the Philippines hosted and topped the medal tally – it finished 5th once, 6th four times, and 7th once.