Second worst finish

In a grand closing ceremony on Wednesday night in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia turned over to the Philippines the hosting of the next Southeast Asian Games in 2019. The 2017 SEA Games closed on the eve of Malaysia’s 60th National Day, with the host country finishing in first place with 145 gold medals.

Filipinos can only hope that the country’s performance in the regional multi-sports competition will improve after two years of preparations for the next SEA Games. In the just concluded SEAG, the Philippines finished a dismal sixth – its second worst ever in the regional games – collecting a total of 121 medals, with 24 golds, 33 silvers and 64 bronzes.

Winners in international sports, however, aren’t made in just two years. After this disappointing performance in Kuala Lumpur, the government must review the country’s sports development program, which needs new ideas and new leadership.

In the SEA Games, the Philippines is now at the bottom of the heap among the five founding members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Second placer Thailand bagged 72 golds in Kuala Lumpur for a total medal haul of 246; Singapore was fourth with 57 golds and 188 in total; Indonesia placed fifth with 38 golds and a total haul of 191. ASEAN latecomer Vietnam placed third with 58 golds, 50 silvers and 60 bronze medals or a total of 168. The Philippines was ahead only of Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Brunei and non-ASEAN member Timor Leste.

For many years now, Filipinos have expressed disappointment over the nation’s failure to bag a single gold medal in the Olympic Games as well as the often mediocre performance in the SEA Games. Sports development officials are aware of this national frustration and should have done more to address the problem. Yet here we are again, facing the second worst results yet, and these are just regional games. President Duterte should order a review of the situation to determine what can be done to improve sports development. Winning isn’t everything, but the nation can do better than finishing near the bottom.

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