NAY PYI TAW – The Philippines closed out the 27th Southeast Asian Games in seventh place, its worst finish since it started competing in the regional sports event in 1977.
With only 29 gold, 34 silver and 37 bronze medals, the Philippines finished behind powerhouse Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Myanmar at the end of the 11-day competition Sunday.
The Filipinos finished sixth twice – in 2007 in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand and 2011 in Palembang, Indonesia. However, it collected more golds: 41 in Nakhon Ratchasima and 36 in Palembang.
The last time the Philippines won fewer than 30 gold medals was in the 1999 Brunei Games where it settled for only 20 out of the 490 gold medals at stake to finish fifth.
It also won 24 gold medals in the 1979 Jakarta Games to finish fourth.
The Philippines last topped the medal race when it hosted the Games in 2005, scooping up 113 golds, 84 silvers and 94 bronzes.
It was second in 1991 in Manila and in 1983 in Singapore.
The Philippines was already playing with a handicap even before the Games kicked off. Months before the meet, organizers scratched Olympic sports like gymnastics, tennis and bowling, replacing them with indigenous games like vovinam, kempo and chinlone.
Those sports were considered to have rich medal potential for the Philippines.
And when the competition started, the Burmese went on a medal spree, particularly in subjective sports like boxing, muay, taekwondo, judo and wushu.
The Philippines easily lost six gold medals to the Burmese in subjective sports and another one in swimming after Jasmine Alkhaldi’s victory was nullified by Singaporean technical officials, setting the tone for a disastrous campaign.
Everything went downhill for the Filipino athletes after that.