SO MUCH has been said about how the country prepared--or didn’t prepare depending on which side--for the Southeast Asian Games but the early surge in the medal tally by Team Philippines in the first two days reminded me of a meeting a couple of years ago. A meeting that shows it’s not just on the athletic front that a country can succeed.
It was a general assembly of the Philippine Eskrima Kali Arnis Federation, headed by Sen. Migs Zubiri, and it was held in Cebu. Aside from gathering the arnis grandmasters of all styles and backgrounds they were there to plot the Seag 2019.
“We are planning on 25 gold medals, but I think 20 would be safe,” Zubiri told reporters after their meeting.
They could have asked for 40 or even 50, such is the power of the Seag host but they were looking beyond the 2019 Seag. Vietnam, the 2021 Seag host, has already agreed to include arnis, one of the sports that gets dropped when others host it, along with dancesports.
So we had a gold medal surge, early in the Seag thanks to arnis and dancesports and that isn’t by accident. Athletics and swimming, just like in 2017, usually start after the opening ceremony but thanks to boardroom meetings and such we kicked off with arnis, dancesports and triathlon, events where we are strong. The dominance in the three now have us with 38 gold medals in the first three days before the medal-rich athletic and swimming events kick off.
And that sets the mood. Look at how celebratory everyone has become?
We haven’t won a gold medal in swimming in 10 years and our athletics team have fallen short in a few editions, save for a few athletes. But given this mood, of early success by teammates in front of kababayans, that’s an extra push possible only at home and made possible by the guys who, unfortunately don’t get much airtime compared to a certain speaker. But hey, they don’t work for that.
The target for this hosting is of course the overall title with some saying we can win as many as 100 medals, while the conservative estimate, coming from the PSC itself is a top three finish. But I think we will know that in the next few days and I hope the early surge has inspired the Pinoys in sports where they are the underdogs to join the surge.