SINGAPORE – The Philippines improved a notch by finishing sixth overall but failed to arrest the continuing and alarming decline of the country’s performance in the Southeast Asian Games since 2005, when as hosts the Filipinos ruled the competition for the first time.
From then on, the country never made it to the top four in the medal standing, which has since been dominated by the likes of Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia.
From 113 gold medals back in 2005, the Philippines plunged to sixth overall in the 2007 Thailand edition with just 41 golds. After finishing fifth in 2009 in Laos with 38 golds, the country slipped again to sixth in the 2011 Indonesia Games where the Philippines garnered 36 golds.
The Filipinos tumbled to a record-low seventh overall in Burma (Myanmar) two years ago when they came up with 29 golds-which they matched this time. It was a haul well bigger than that of the seventh-placed Burmese.
There was a catch, though. The 2013 PH delegation totaled 208. This time, the country sent 400-plus athletes.
Before the contingent left for Singapore, chief of mission Julian Camacho had projected a harvest of 50 golds and an improvement on the 2013 finish.
There were gold medals that simply slipped away from us, said Camacho, referring to the narrow defeats in several sports.
Track and field athletes, including the men’s 4Aâ€”400-meter relay team, lamented six heart-breaking near-misses.
Swimming, traditional boat race, archery and rowing failed to put away a single gold. The victory drought in swimming-where 38 golds were at stake here-started in 2011 yet.
Philippine Sports Commission chair Richie Garcia said he is not blaming the athletes for the country’s below-target performance.
Vowing to help raise the skills level of the national coaches, Garcia said the mentors should be able to focus 100 percent on the PH team in future Games, instead of concentrating on jobs in the collegiate or commercial leagues.
He said the size of the country’s contingent swelled in these Games due to the decision of officials to field men’s and women’s squads in softball, water polo and volleyball, among other team sports.
Garcia also echoed the call of Philippine Olympic Committee president Jose Peping Cojuangco Jr., for the SEA Games Federation to separate Olympics sports from non-Olympic disciplines or indigenous sports.