SEA Games 2019

Look Back 2019: Thrills and spills in the Philippines

The Singapore women's underwater hockey team won both the 4x4 and 6x6 titles, as did their male counterparts, making it a clean sweep of the SEA Games golds. PHOTO: SPORT SINGAPORE
The Singapore women's underwater hockey team won both the 4x4 and 6x6 titles, as did their male counterparts, making it a clean sweep of the SEA Games golds. PHOTO: SPORT SINGAPORE

The 30th SEA Games held in the Philippines from Nov 30 to Dec 11 delivered a host of shocks and surprises, as well as a typhoon (Kammuri), as Team Singapore returned home with a haul of 53 gold, 46 silver and 68 bronze medals.

While Singapore celebrated triumphs in newer sports like underwater hockey - which swept all four gold medals on offer - fencing, jiu-jitsu and ice skating, it was not all roses for the 659-strong contingent that battled for honours in Clark, Manila and Subic Bay.

Singapore swimming was lauded for matching its best Games medal haul of 23 golds, but others like athletics and football received brickbats from the authorities.

The first shock came early in the biennial event as the men's water polo team, undefeated champions since 1965, were upset 7-5 by Indonesia in their round-robin match before a 6-6 draw with the hosts saw them settling for bronze.

Then, it was the turn of the Under-22 footballers to underperform. They failed to meet their semi-final target after one win, three losses and a draw.

But what raised the hackles of the public was that nine players were caught breaking curfew during the competition.

That subsequently led to a spat between the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) and Football Association of Singapore (FAS), with the former criticising the association's decision to name the errant footballers until a thorough investigation was completed.

There also appeared to be disagreement over which organisation had jurisdiction over the players who flouted the rules, as the SNOC said in its SEA Games post-mortem that it was consulting its lawyers while the FAS said it had some "procedural issues" to sort out.

Others such as sailing, shooting and table tennis were hit by a dip in the number of events contested in the Philippines and had underwhelming performances. All three have traditionally produced results on the regional stage and their medal tallies of 1-5-0, 0-1-4 and 2-3-2 will be a concern for future editions of the Games.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 31, 2019, with the headline 'Thrills and spills in the Philippines'. Print Edition | Subscribe