Sports pride overflows as PH crowned overall champion, SEA Games close


Posted at Dec 11 2019 07:34 PM | Updated as of Dec 11 2019 09:44 PM

Athletes from different countries march during the closing ceremony of the SEA Games at New Clark City's athletics stadium in Capas town, Tarlac, on Wednesday, December 11, 2019. Ted Aljibe, AFP

During the closing ceremonies of the 2019 Southeast Asian Games on Wednesday, rockstar Arnel Pineda chose to end his live performance at New Clark City with the only song that could truly capture his countrymen's feeling.

Yes, Team Philippines, we are the champions.

The hosts ended the more than weeklong regional meet with a festive concert featuring Journey frontman Pineda, and and Black-Eyed Peas, two music icons who embody the mindset that, when Filipinos work hard to achieve an objective, they can succeed on the international stage.

Resounding proof of that is the country's performance in these SEA Games, which the Philippines dominated with 149 gold, 117 silver and 121 bronze medals for a total of 387 medals.

The only other time the Filipinos captured the SEA Games general championship was in 2005, the last time they hosted.

"They showed us that with proper support and encouragement, they will deliver," said Philippine Olympic Committee president Abraham Tolentino.

The ceremony also featured the handover of hosting duties to Vietnam, which will hold the 2021 SEA Games in Hanoi.

"I am proud that they proved that my faith in them was well-placed. But this is just the beginning. I see better things ahead for Philippine sports," Tolentino said.

After Filipino triathletes John Chicano and Kim Mangrobang won the buena mano gold medals of the Games in the morning of December 1, it was off to the races for the hosts.

The dance athletes were the stars, too, of Day 1, collecting 10 gold medals, nearly half the day's harvest of 23 for the Filipinos. For context, the Philippines had an approximate number of gold in the entire 2017 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.

Gold-winning surfer Roger Casogay became an overnight sensation after his heroics in La Union helped to save an Indonesian competitor from danger. Czar Dancel, ABS-CBN News

Meanwhile, arnis, which is returning to the Games for the first time since 2005, like dancesports, won the most gold medals for the Philippines with 14.

In the succeeding days, the household sporting names lived up to their reputation, as weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, skateboarder Margielyn Didal, pole-vaulter EJ Obiena and gymnast Carlos Yulo worked their magic en route to victory.

The teams considered sure bets to dominate their respective sports did not disappoint, as the basketball contingent went 4-of-4 in the gold tally and the boxers got 7-of-13 first-place finishes.

With hundreds of events on tap, it was natural to see new faces come into their own in the regional competition.

James Deiparine (swimming), Kristina Knott (track and field), Agatha Wong (wushu), and the SEA Games newbies in esports were among the few

The 10 sports featuring in the SEA Games for the first time delivered victories, with obstacle course (6), skateboarding (6) and Brazilian jiu-jitsu (5) delivering the most gold medals. Overall those 10 sports combined to chip in 29 gold medals.

In total, combat sports had a significant impact on the gold total.

Besides arnis, boxing and jiu-jitsu, taekwondo (8) and wushu (7) had a bumper crop of victories, with judo and muay Thai adding to the 57 titles won in the hand-to-hand events.

Not all goosebumps-inducing stories ended with a top podium finish.

Efren "Bata" Reyes didn't win the carom gold, but the fan reverence never waned when he played at Manila Hotel.

The Philippine men's national volleyball team shocked the region with an upset of Thailand in the semifinals, fell short in the gold medal game against Indonesia, but the squad won the hearts of millions with their "puso."

After Ruben Gonzales won the gold in men's tennis doubles, he got down on one knee to propose to girlfriend and former race-car driver Michele Bumgarner at the Rizal tennis court.

But the story that arguably topped these Games is one of heroism, featuring surfer Roger Casogay who helped an Indonesian competitor who had trouble with his gear while he was out on the open water.

For that, he has earned not only plaudits from the sports community and the Philippine government, but even from the Indonesian president, too.

"He wasn't drowning but he was floating away," Casogay told AFP by phone, adding it was possible the big waves could have pulled the Indonesian out to sea beyond rescue.

These Games weren't without controversy, though.

Early in the competition, there were complaints about food preferences for foreign athletes, transportation and accommodation. The Games cauldron at New Clark City and its cost were the subject of memes.

Even the entrance song for the Philippines during the opening ceremonies at Philippine Arena polarized the country.

At the height of competition, typhoon Tisoy disrupted numerous events.

The Games were also slammed by typhoon Tisoy, which forced about half of the events to be rescheduled for one day.

Tisoy's fierce winds toppled trees and flattened flimsy homes across a swathe of the nation's north, and forced a rare 12-hour shutdown of Manila's international airport.

Despite 13 deaths in the storm, none of the athletes, officials or 12,000 volunteers was reported hurt and a full program resumed soon after.

Once the celebrations have died down however, organizers will face a government probe after the embarrassing build-up to the Games generated the wrong kind of headlines and a mocking hashtag #SEAGamesFail. — With a report from James Edgar, Agence France-Presse

For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.

2019 SEA Games