KUALA LUMPUR • Thailand took aim at table-topping Malaysia for stacking the sports programme in their favour as they conceded defeat in the SEA Games medal race.
The Thais dominated the last edition of the 11-nation biennial competition in 2015, when they claimed 95 gold medals to finish clear of hosts Singapore on 84.
But with the Games closing on Wednesday, Thailand are third in the current table, well behind hosts Malaysia. As late as Saturday night, the Thais were also surprisingly behind Singapore (43-46).
"We have missed several gold medals and our situation does not look good," said Thailand's delegation chief Thana Chaiprasit, according to the Bangkok Post. "I think we will get around 80 gold medals, which would be about 20 per cent below our target of 109 golds."
And even with 60 golds up for grabs tomorrow on Super Tuesday, including 16 from silat, Thailand are unlikely to make much headway.
The regional sporting powerhouses will have to look at themselves in the mirror, having slumped in the biggest gold silo alongside swimming - the compulsory discipline of athletics.
The track and field kingpins have faltered badly this time, finishing second to Vietnam (17) with only nine golds - with seven coming from the field to spare their blushes. They had 17 first places in Singapore two years ago.
Another sport where they have seen a significant drop-off is shooting, with just five golds from 14 events, after the number was cut from 26 in 2015 and they won 14 of them.
Furthermore, weightlifting has only five men's events, compared with 11 (six men, five women) in total in 2013 when it was last contested and Thailand won six in all.
But the decline is not all of their own making. One distinctive feature of the Games is the policy of frequently revamping the programme. It means host nations traditionally do well, finishing top of the medal table in six of the last 10 SEA Games.
Thana complained that Malaysia's decision to drop women's boxing, and include sports such as squash and figure skating, had hit Thailand hard.
"They organise sports (that) they are good at and do not organise sports other countries are good at," he said. "When we return home, we have to look at our mistakes and solve problems seriously."