COLOR me skeptic but ever since I learned about the power a Southeast Asian (SEA) Games host country has, I’ve never been impressed of a host winning an overall title in the biennial meet--sometimes referred to by veteran scribes as international sport’s barangay meet.
For me, what is more impressive is a visiting team finishing as high as second, because that speaks volumes of their programs. A host finishing first or in the top three? That’s a given, given how it can add and drop sports events. Look at what Myanmar did when it finished second in 2013, adding a slew of indigenous sports that were predictably dropped in the next hosting.
After the meet, I was preparing to check how we fared in the Olympic sports but the Philippine Sports Institute (PSI) had the same idea and I was pleasantly surprised to know that even if only the Olympic sports were played--minus dancesports, billiards, arnis--we’d still win the overall title, though not by a wide margin. According to data from the PSI, of the 332 gold medals in the 31 Olympic events in the 2019 SEA Games, we got 81 with Vietnam a close second at 74.
For me, that’s more impressive than the overall number of golds we won given that we added so many events that we were really strong at.
Philippine Sports Commission’s (PSC) Ramon Fernandez credited the national teams’ overseas exposure in the two years before the SEA Games as the major factor in that and I agree. The PSC spent more than P1 billion funding the teams’ overseas campaign and training in the past two years that has led to some really impressive results like EJ Obenia qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics in pole vault and Carlos Yulo winning a world title in gymnastics.
Can the PSC sustain such massive spending in the succeeding years? Good if it can but I hope we can give the athletes based here world-class training, where they need not go abroad to learn from the best.
How to go about that? The PSC started the ball rolling with the PSI, a pet project of chairman Butch Ramirez. I hope, four years after it started, the PSI will have world-class coaches who can give our national teams—or even those a rung below them—world-class training.
It would be a lot cheaper but more can benefit since it is just based here.
For me, that’s what make this year’s SEA Games stint successful. The athletes got the training and funding they deserved, something I hope all future national teams will enjoy.