Olympics: Region's athletes lead South-east Asia to best ever showing at an Olympics

Indonesia's gold medalists Liliyana Natsir (left) and Tontowi Ahmad react after winning their mixed doubles badminton final.
Indonesia's gold medalists Liliyana Natsir (left) and Tontowi Ahmad react after winning their mixed doubles badminton final. PHOTO: AFP

The SEA level has risen. Four years ago, South-east Asia's athletes failed to deliver a single gold medal at the London Olympics - a first since the 1988 Seoul Games.

At the latest edition in Rio de Janeiro, the region responded by combining to bring back a record haul of 18 medals - five golds, 10 silvers and three bronzes. The previous best performance was at the 2004 Athens Games - four golds, two silvers, and six bronzes.

The Straits Times looks at South-east Asia's leading lights in Rio.

Indonesia

2016 tally: One gold and two silvers

2012 tally: One silver and one bronze

Best tally: Two golds, two silvers and one bronze in 1992

Liliyana Natsir, 30, and Tontowi Ahmad, 29, delivered Indonesia's last medal and they could not have timed their badminton mixed doubles gold any better.

 

The world No. 3 pair defeated Malaysia's Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying 21-14, 21-12 in the final on Indonesia's 71st independence day.

Natsir and Tontowi, who stunned top seeds and defending champions Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei of China in the semi-finals, gave Indonesia their first Olympic gold medal since 2008.

Shuttlers were also behind their gold at the Beijing Games, with the men's doubles pairing of Hendra Setiawan and Markis Kido emerging victorious.

Weightlifters accounted for Indonesia's two silvers in Rio. Sri Wahyuni Agustiani, 22, finished second in the women's 48 kg category, while Eko Yuli Irawan, 27, was runners-up in the men's 62kg event.

Malaysia

2016 tally: Four silvers one bronze

2012 tally: One silver and one bronze

Best tally: 2016


Malaysia's Lee Chong Wei in action against Lin Dan in the badminton semi-final. He eventually won silver. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

There was heartbreak again for Malaysia as they came so close to winning their first ever Olympic gold medal. Still, there were plenty of silver linings.

World No. 1 shuttler Lee Chong Wei defeated nemesis and two-time defending champion Lin Dan of China for the first time at a major event. After that emotional semi-final victory, however, he fell to China's world No. 2 Chen Long in the title decider 21-18, 21-18.

It was Lee's third straight silver at the Olympics. No Southeast-Asian athlete has more medals.

Earlier in the badminton competition, his team-mates Goh V. Shem and Tan Wee Kiong were a point away from gold - twice. Facing Chinese duo Fu Haifeng and Zhang Nan in the final, they each netted a serve at 20-19 and 21-20.

The world No. 4 duo prevailed 16-21, 21-11, 23-21. Yet Goh and Tan - ranked 12th - had punched above their weight. The same can be said about the world No. 11 mixed doubles pairing of Chan, 28, and Goh, 27. They too took home a surprise silver .

Diver Pandelela Rinong, a runner-up in the 10m platform at the 2012 London Games, added another silver to her collection. This time, she shared her joy with Cheong Jun Hoong following their efforts in the women's synchronised 10m platform event.

In the men's keirin, Azizulhasni Awang, 28, won a historic bronze - Malaysia's first cycling medal.

Philippines

2016 tally: One silver

2012 tally: Nil

Best tally: 2016, 1996 and 1964


Philippines' Hidilyn Diaz during the women's 53kg weightlifting event. She become the first Filipino woman to win an Olympic medal. PHOTO: AFP 

Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz ended the Philippines' 20-year Olympic medal drought when she won silver in the women's 53kg category.

The 25-year-old lifted 200kg to become the first Filipino woman to win an Olympic medal. The country's previous nine medals were all delivered by men.

No Filipino had made the podium since boxer Mansueto Velasco won silver at the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Singapore

2016 tally: One gold

2012 tally: Two bronzes

Best tally: 2016


Joseph Schooling of Singapore reacting after he won the Rio 2016 Olympic Games men's 100m butterfly final. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Majulah Singapura was played at the Olympics for the first time after Joseph Schooling won 100m butterfly gold in a Games-record 50.39 seconds. The 21-year-old's victory was also highly significant as he beat American swimming legend Michael Phelps in the most decorated Olympian's last individual race. It was Phelps' only defeat in a final in Rio as he finished his career with a total of 28 medals - 23 gold.

Schooling is the first Singaporean male since Tan Howe Liang at the 1960 Rome Games to win an Olympic medal. Table tennis players Feng Tianwei, Li Jiawei and Wang Yuegu accounted for women's team silver at the 2008 Beijing Games and bronze at the 2012 London Games. Feng also won an individual bronze in the British capital.

Thailand

2016 tally: Two gold, two silver and two bronzes

2012 tally: Two silvers and two bronzes

Best tally: 2016


Sopita Tanasan of Thailand lifted 200kg to win the women's 48kg weightlifting event. PHOTO: REUTERS

Thailand has been traditionally strong in weightlifting and they produced two more female gold medallists in Sopita Tanasan and fellow 21-year-old Sukanya Srisurat.

Sopita lifted 200kg to win the women's 48kg event on the opening day of competition.

Two days later, Sukanya set an Olympic record of 110 kg in the snatch en route to victory. She lifted 130kg in clean and jerk for a total of 240kg in the women's 58 kg category, with compatriot Pimsiri Sirikaew, 26, taking silver (232kg).

Sinphet Kruaithong, 20, then became the first Thai male to win an Olympic weightlifting medal when he won bronze in the 56kg competition.

Thailand now have 12 weightlifting medals from the Olympics - with all five golds delivered by women.

Thailands other two medals from Rio came from taekwondo. Tawin Hanprab, 18, won silver in the men's 58kg event while Panipak Wongpattanakit, 19, claimed bronze in the women's 49kg category.

Vietnam

2016 tally: One gold and one silver

2012 tally: Nil

Best tally: 2016


Hoang Xuan Vinh of Vietnam celebrates after winning the men's 10m shooting finals. PHOTO: REUTERS 

Vietnam's Rio campaign literally started with a bang. Hoang Xuan Vinh's Olympic-record 202.5 points in the 10m air pistol event gave the country its first ever gold on the opening day of competition.

Vinh then won 50m pistol silver four days later to become the first Vietnamese athlete to earn two Olympic medals.

The 41-year-old single-handedly doubled Vietnam's all-time haul. Taekwondo exponent Tran Hieu Ngan won their first medal at the 2000 Sydney Games - eight years before weightlifter Hoang Anh Tuan added another silver.