Capas, Tarlac—As the national athletics team ended their campaign with a gold medal from decathlete Aries Toledo, the Philippines added to the highest medal count in 14 years at the close of the 30th Southeast Asian Games.
As the fire that blazed atop the cauldron for almost two weeks was doused, Toledo managed to retain the crown he won in 2017.
This gave the Philippines a total of 149 golds, 118 silvers and 120 bronzes when the overall tally was finally completed Wednesday.
The count was 36 golds higher than what the Philippines got in 2005 when the country last hosted the event. Back then, the Philippines had a 149-118-120, gold-silver-bronze haul.
Vietnam, which got its final gold from Tan Trieu Tran in his title conquest in the 10km open swimming meet, finished with a 98-85-105 showing.
Thailand, drawing its last gold from its men’s 4×100-meter relay team in athletics, finished with a 92-103-123 performance for third.
As volunteers and athletes from participating countries marched around the New Clark City athletics stadium for one last time at last night’s closing ceremonies, Philippine Olympic Committee president Abraham Tolentino praised the hard work and dedication of Filipino athletes in toiling for hard-earned medals during the 11-day meet.
“I am overwhelmed by the performance of our athletes in the 30th SEA Games. They showed us that with proper support and encouragement, they will deliver. I am proud that they proved that my faith in them was well-placed,” said Tolentino last night. Hip hop group Black Eyed Peas sang “Let’s Get It Started” during the closing ceremony Wednesday night while Ariel Pineda, frontman of the American rock band Journey, capped the evening with “We Are The Champions.”
Tolentino said the Philippines’ quest for excellence in the international stage does not end here.
“This is just the beginning. I see better things ahead for Philippine sports. And the Philippine Olympic Committee will partner with both government and private sectors to ensure this will indeed happen. Next stop is the Olympics,” he said.
Tolentino added that long hours devoted in the planning stages, the sacrifices and challenges were worth all the wait. “As we bring to a close another chapter in the history of the Southeast Asian Games, one cannot but feel a sense of wonderment at how time went by so fast. It feels like yesterday that we went into the planning stages, the feverish preparations, the many challenges faced and hurdled, then the excitement of the competitions and the inevitable euphoria and despair at every match won or lost. And now, all too soon, we bid each other farewell,” said Tolentino.
Philippine Sports Commission chairman William Ramirez said the dedication that the athletes have shown is something worth praising.
“We all worked hard for this. The Philippine Olympic Committee, national sports associations, the organizing committee, the government, the private sector, and the Filipino people all came together to show our team that they have the whole nation behind them,” said Ramirez, before music and fireworks energized the big crowd that came to witness lively musical performances.
The official SEAG flag was later finally turned over to representatives from Vietnam, which will host the Games in 2021.
Classic rock bands KO Jones and Journey also entertained the crowd with a 20-minute set each.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday night met with gold medalist and “hero surfer” Roger Casugay, who earned praises for rescuing his Indonesian rival during the men’s longboard competition in the 30th Southeast Asian Games.
Casugay and the rest of the Philippine surfing team paid a courtesy call in Malacañang, as shown in photos released by the Palace. The Filipino surfer saved Indonesian Arip Nurhidayat who broke his leash during the competition in La Union on Dec. 6.
The 25-year-old athlete eventually won the gold medal in the men’s longboard on Sunday and he was the Philippines’ flag bearer for the closing rites of the games at the New Clark City Athletics Stadium on Wednesday.
Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo has expressed his appreciation for Casugay for helping Nurhidayat.
The Senate also commended Casugay for his heroism.
The Philippine Sports Commission will offer him a special plaque of recognition and a cash incentive on Friday. With MJ Blancaflor