PHNOM PENH—Finishing fifth place but with more medals from last year was mission accomplished for Team Philippines at the 32nd Southeast Asian Games that officially came to a close on Wednesday evening.
“The medal haul will speak for itself,” said Philippine Olympic Committee President Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino, referring to the 58 gold, 85 silver and 117 bronze medals won in Cambodia numbers that surpassed the harvest in Vietnam of 52 gold, 70 silver and 105 bronze medals.
Cambodia was apple compared to the orange that was Vietnam which hosted the biennial games almost exactly a year ago.
To guarantee a successful first-time hosting, the Cambodians tweaked norms by limiting the participation of the 10 other member countries in dozens of sports or events while fielding a complete roster obviously to its advantage.
As a result, Cambodia, which never figured strongly in the medals race in the past, had an 81-74-127 gold-silver-bronze tally to finish fourth behind repeat overall champion Vietnam (136-105-114), Thailand (108-96-108) and Indonesia (87-80-109).
But Tolentino stood undaunted by the result with the victory in men’s basketball on Tuesday evening capping the fighting campaign.
“The important thing is we surpassed the medal haul last SEA Games and we have reclaimed basketball supremacy in the region,” he said.
A pre-games favorite with a lineup heavily reinforced by American players, Cambodia fell short of expectations in the men’s basketball final with Gilas Pilipinas booking a methodical 80-69 victory over the hosts to bring the gold back home after getting humiliated by Indonesia in Hanoi also in May last year.
Tolentino said he and the POC have all the reasons to continue profusely supporting Filipino athletes.
“I will continue to be steadfast in supporting our our athletes, sports officials and Philippine sports development in general,” he said.
Tolentino added: “The 32nd SEA Games has once again proven the Filipino brand of sportsmanship and athletic talent. Team Philippines made the nation proud, and our athletes, with all heart and spirit, fought well and hard, and this is all what matters?
Despite disappointments not only from Team Philippines officials but also from the other delegations, Tolentino praised Cambodia for its debut in SEA Games hosting.
“The respect and admiration we have gained from our ASEAN counterparts all the more made this games a sweeter success,” he said.
“More importantly, we have done our part in strengthening the ties that bind Southeast Asian nations into a shared vision of regional inclusive growth.”
“Clearly, the 32nd SEA Games theme of ‘Peace Through Sports’ has been achieved.”
Thailand will host the 33rd SEA Games back to the traditional odd number year schedule in 2025 in Bangkok and Chonburi.