Sunday, September 26, 2021

Malaysia wins 145 golds to become SEA Games champions

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- Host Malaysia has won 145 gold medals at the Southeast Asian Games to emerge as overall champions for the first time in 16 years, making it a double celebration in conjunction with its 60th anniversary of its independence from British rule.

The medal bounty exceeded Malaysia's record of 111 golds in the 2001 games that it last hosted, and comes as a bonus ahead of its Independence Day celebration on Thursday.

Thailand, which was champion in four of the last five games, had 72 gold medals.

Vietnam had 58, Singapore 57, Indonesia 38, Philippines 24, Myanmar 7, Cambodia 3 and Laos 2. The sultanate of Brunei and new state Timor Leste (East Timor) failed to win any gold in the region's largest multi-sports event that was scheduled to end with a closing ceremony later Wednesday.

The biennial Games, which started in 1959, covers a wide range of sports, many that are on the Olympic program. It also includes sports distinct to the region such as the pencak silat martial art, sepak takraw that is played with a rattan ball, and Thai kickboxing muay thai.

Malaysia's medal haul was a big jump from the 62 golds they won at the 2015 games in Singapore, but it isn't surprising as host countries can tailor the program to match their strength. In 2007, Thailand took 183 out of 477 on home soil while host Indonesia finished with 182 out of 554 in 2011.

The next SEA Games will be contested in the Philippines in 2019.

Malaysia's organization and some games results attracted controversy.

Indonesia accused Malaysia of cheating in the pencak silat competition after two Malaysians won gold in the men's artistic doubles. Indonesia team manager Edhy Prabowo alleged that the duo, who had lost many times to Indonesia, were awarded an unfairly high score.

The allegation came after a gaffe by Malaysia in printing the Indonesian flag upside down in a souvenir guidebook for the games. The error made the red-and-white Indonesian flag resemble Poland's and caused anger in Indonesia, where "shameonyoumalaysia" became the most popular hashtag on Twitter.

Malaysia was quick to apologize for the "unintentional" mistake and said it would reprint the guide books.

In athletics, a Malaysian woman was criticized after she overtook a Vietnamese competitor to win the gold medal in a women's walk event by apparently running in the final stretch to the finish line. Officials also complained that games venue and timing were changed at the last minute. (AP)
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