The 30th Southeast Asian Games is about to end its two-week run here and it has surely been an eventful one, filled with standout moments to take away from.
If you have been following the Games, it is no secret to you that combat sports for the Philippines have it golden.
Of the 137 gold medals we have as of this writing, at least 40% came from combat sports.
Winning the most gold mint is arnis with 14, a truly solid way to announce its return to the Games after a 14-year absence; a medal each for the time away from it? Probably.
Boxing, taekwondo and wushu have seven golds, with jiu-jitsu, judo, muay thai, sambo and karate among the multiple gold medal winners.
With the success of these sports for the country, it begs the question, should we channel more resources to them seeing their potential medal windfalls in international competitions?
In this edition of the biennial regional sporting meet, while veteran Filipino campaigners still made their presence felt, new heroes have emerged.
Swimming’s James Deiparine, athletics’ Kristina Knotts and Christine Hallasgo, skatboarding’s Margielyn Didal, Christiana Means and Daniel Ledermann, the Philippine obstacle racing team and esports team Sibol have trumpeted themselves as forces to be reckoned with in their respective fields with their gold medal performances.
The men’s volleyball team I am personally proud of seeing make waves in the Games.
Later yesterday it was going for the gold against Indonesia after a gutsy come-from-behind win over erstwhile defending champion Thailand in the semifinals.
Long in the shadows of their female counterparts as far as appreciation and attention of local fans, their performance in this year’s Games could finally merit them a share of the spotlight they deserve.
Feel-good moments also abound.
For me it all started at the opening ceremony on Nov. 30 which brimmed with much Filipino pride with the pageantry and production.
Then came the entrance of the country’s sporting legends Lydia De Vega (athletics), Akiko Thompson (swimming), Eric Buhain (swimming), Alvin Patrimonio (basketball), Bong Coo (bowling), Efren “Bata” Reyes (billiards), Onyok Velasco (boxing) and Paeng Nepomuceno (bowling), who were carrying the SEA Games Federation flag.
It was a goose bumps moment for me seeing all those heroes of my childhood and adolescent life as a sports fan.
Reyes, 65, continued to stand out for me in this SEAG, competing in what could be his last before he calls it a career.
He did not win gold in the 1-cushion event of billiards but still finished on the podium with a bronze. A legend and will always be a legend in my book.
Hallasgo, too, provided a feel-good moment when she came out of nowhere to win the women’s marathon event. She defeated longtime marathon queen and compatriot Mary Joy Tabal along the way which made her effort great through and through.
She was a late addition to the team and just trained here and was sans a sponsor but it did not stop her from winning it all.
Sixteen-year-old gymnast Daniela Dela Pisa, an ovarian cancer survivor, produced a gold and two bronze medals in rhythmic gymnastics and is a winner in more ways than one.
The husband-and-wife tandem of Paul Marton Dela Cruz and Rachelle Dela Cruz, meanwhile, topped the archery mixed compound recurve event, proving once again that “love wins.”
Then there is the story of surfer Roger Casugay, who apart from winning gold in the longboard event made news at the weekend after he helped an Indonesian rival surfer who had trouble in the waves of Monalisa Point beach in La Union after his surfer’s leash broke.
The Filipino surfer has gotten a lot of praise, including from Indonesian President Indonesia Joko Widodo, for showing the traits that embody true sportsmanship.
His actions showed that amid the competition, the Games is more than the medals won.
Fan support was standout, too.
Amid some issues that marred the 30th SEA Games in the lead-up and early goings of the country’s hosting, fans still trekked to the various venues to support the athletes.
And the more encouraging thing about it all was that in was not only confined to popular sports like basketball, volleyball and football.
Gymnastics, weightlifting, the combat sport and endurance sports and athletics, among others, had their solid following as well on the stands during the two-week stretch of the Games, which was truly a sight to behold.
With the 30th SEA Games ending today, I must admit I am having mixed emotions.
Happy that I finally get to rest from all the writing involved in covering the Games and more, and sad because as a fan the two-week run of seeing sports take front and center comes to an end for now.
Good thing I have all these standout moments and others to hold on to until another sporting event of interest comes along.
Thank you, SEA Games 2019. Mabuhay ang Atletang Pilipino!
Michael Angelo S. Murillo has been a columnist since 2003. He is a BusinessWorld reporter covering the Sports beat.