SEA Games: The Philippines hope to end run of appalling form in Kuala Lumpur

PHILIPPINES (ANN) - For the last decade, the Philippines has been on a steady decline in the South-east Asian Games.

Once a front runner in the region's biennial sporting meet, the Philippines has never finished higher than fifth place since topping the SEA Games in 2005 in Manila.

But the Philippines hasn't always been in the bottom half of the 11-nation competition, where medals for at least 30 different team and individual sports are being disputed.

When the Philippines started sending athletes to the SEA Games in 1977, the multi-sport event had just changed its name from the South-east Asian Peninsular Games, and promptly finished third in the medal race behind Indonesia and Thailand.

It was a golden age for sports for the Philippines. From that year until 2003, the Philippines only failed to crack the top three in the medal race five out of the next 13 editions of the biggest sporting event in the region.

When Manila hosted the SEA Games in 2005-a first since 1991-the Philippines got the chance to field the biggest delegation yet with over 700 athletes and that yielded the country's best finish at No. 1 with a 113-84-94 gold-silver-bronze medal haul.

That though, turned out to be the last time the sport-loving Philippines would taste the podium in the medal standings.

What followed was a disheartening stretch in the history of Philippine sports. Despite sending 620 athletes to Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand in the 2007 edition of the regional games, the Philippines shockingly dropped from first to sixth in a dismal showing with a 41-91-96 medal tally.

Since then, the size of the Philippine delegation has fluctuated from as low as 148 to as big as 512 athletes, but the results have remained just as disappointing.

It didn't get any better for the country in 2009 in Vientiane, Laos.

With just 153 Philippine athletes competing in 25 sports, they only garnered 38 gold, 35 silver and 51 bronze medals to wind up fifth overall.

The Philippine delegation ballooned to 512, two years after in Jakarta, Indonesia but botched the goal to fare better and instead settled for sixth place with only 36 golds, 56 silvers and 77 bronzes.

Another lean delegation was sent to Naypyitaw, Myanmar in 2013 after Philippine sports officials were irked by the host country's cherry-picking of sports to be played - dropping mainstream events and including obscure sports.

Unsurprisingly, the Philippines wound up sixth among 11 nations with 29 gold, 36 silver and 66 bronze medals.

The country's place in the medal standings remained unchanged in Singapore at the 2015 SEA Games, despite packing a relatively large group composed of 472 Philippine athletes.

It was a frustrating showing for the Philippines, who only managed 29 gold, 36 silver, 66 bronze medals to fall far behind fifth-placed Indonesia (47-61-74) in the medal count.

This year's team to Malaysia is hoping to finally change that.

There will be 493 Philippine athletes who will be giving it their all in the hopes of giving the country an improved standing in Kuala Lumpur, which is hosting the event for the sixth time.

The Philippines has committed athletes to 37 sports with a target of at least 50 gold medals - which hasn't been done since 2005.

The country's best medal haul in the last 10 years is 41 in 2007.

It may remain a tall order to find a place at the top, but the Philippines are fed up of being on the outside looking in, when it comes to the competition they once dominated and that may be enough motivation to finally end the slump in KL.