TWO days before the 30th Southeast Asian Games formally starts, Philippine Sports Commission chairman Butch Ramirez called on Filipino athletes to win the overall championship for flag and country.
“Go for the golds as if your life depended on them and an entire nation will be grateful,” Ramirez, chef of mission of Team Philippines, said. “Let’s bring good news to everyone. We need it, all Filipinos need it.”
Ramirez’s call isn’t an empty plea or a mere sound bite. For spending P1 billion on the national athletes’ international training and exposure, equipment, foreign coaches, education and nutrition, the PSC expects a return of its huge investment in the form of a successful run not only in these games but in the coming Tokyo Olympics and Hangzhou Asian Games as well.
“Government has been very supportive of our national athletes. And it’s high time that such support gets the results expected from the athletes’ all-out campaign in the SEA Games. We expect nothing less than a 100 percent effort from our national athletes in front of their fellow Filipinos, who I am very sure, will come out in droves to support them.”
The Philippines is fielding the largest delegation in the Games – 1,115 athletes and 753 coaches and officials for a total of 1,868. A total of 530 gold medals will be at stake in 56 sports disciplines in 44 venues in Metro Manila and Southern Luzon, Subic and New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac.
Combat sports account for most of the gold medal projection, with arnis tipped to deliver at least 15 gold medals from the 20 events on tap. Five gold medals each are expected from judo, kickboxing, jiu-jitsu, sambo, and wrestling.
Outside of combat sports, dancesport is projected to deliver 10 gold medals, while athletics and gymnastics are confident of getting nine.
The last time the country hosted the SEA Games in 2005, Filipino athletes won the overall title for the first time in what is now known as “The Miracle of 2005,” winning 291 medals (113 golds, 84 silvers, 94 bronzes). Thailand finished second while Vietnam placed third.
“Nobody expected us to win in 2005, but we did,” said Ramirez. “For nine days that year, Filipinos were united by our athletes’ sporting achievement. We did it once, let’s do it again, for flag and country.”