Saturday, December 19, 2009

2009 Laos Sea Games

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The 25th edition of the South East Asian (SEA) Games was held in Vientiane, Laos from 9-18 December 2009. Although a few events such as water polo and football started before the official opening ceremony, the other events were held within the timeframe of the opening and closing ceremonies with rousing success.

As a first-time host of the biennial games, and for a relatively poor country, Laos put on a great show according to various reports from journalists covering the event there. However, for the common people of the Asean countries, me included, there was one major downside – the games were not telecast live on television.

I have been following the Sea Games enthusiastically ever since I can remember, and without the live telecast, it just felt so different. The reason, it seems for there being no live telecast is that Laos could not provide the basic facilities, and also as a cost-saving measure.

For Malaysians, the situation changed when our national team made it to the semi-finals of the football event. Our own television crew went there to specially bring live feed for the semi-finals, which was maintained for the finals too. This initiative came down well with the Malaysian citizens who could at least cheer and watch their national team play.

In addition to the unavailability of live feed, or even delayed one’s for that matter, the fact that some events that were contested were not suited for a regional multi-sport meet was also brought up. Come on – shuttlecock juggling, muay thai and fin swimming – of what benefits are this sports to us? Luckily, Malaysia took the bright step of side-stepping these events as they are of no real benefit.

As the curtains have come down on the games after 10 days of slugging it out, battling tooth and nail for the elusive gold medals, athletes and officials waved a goodbye to Laos. Looking at the medals’ standings, regional powerhouses Thailand walked home with bragging rights after topping the table with 86 gold medals, and 266 total medals, but not without a fight as Vietnam almost caused an upset as they were leading going into the final days, only to lose out by a mere three gold medals.

A few sports were completely dominated by one country. In diving, Malaysia were untouchable, nicking 75% of the gold medals on offer. Fin swimming, the new sport of which I haven’t even watched on video, and I doubt anyone else has seen, was dictated by the Vietnamese. Singapore were a class apart from the rest in swimming, although Malaysia offered some resistance. Table Tennis was also conquered by the Singaporean paddlers.

Malaysia, I believe, have performed reasonably well given that the sports that they are traditionally stronger in – hockey, squash, gymnastics, bowling and sailing – were not contested. A tentative 35 gold medals were projected, 30 in a worst case scenario, but we ended up with 40 gold medals to show, which is, to say, highly commendable.

Here are some of the highlights and lowlights of the Malaysia contingent in Laos.


Swimming: Daniel Bego

He won five gold medals and has assumed the role as the premier swimming sensation in South East Asia. His hefty medal return was justified by him being awarded the accolade as the Best Male Athlete of the games. This youngster still has much to prove, and his next step is to be an Asian-beater and maybe make it to the final round in the 2012 London Olympics.

Football: The National U-23 Team

1989 – That was the last time Malaysia won the Sea Games gold medal after defeating Singapore. Thereafter, the prized gold medal eluded the national team. They did reach the finals in 2001, but were outclassed by Thailand. It all seemed lost here too after their defeat to Vietnam in the group stages, but they turned on the heat to knock regional giants Thailand out of the running. In the end, the gold medal hopefully has the potential to be the perfect tonic that they need to turn around football’s fortune in Malaysia.

Badminton: Women’s Team

This was another case of success not tasted for a long period of time – 34 years that is. Wong Mew Choo, and the doubles pair of Wong Pei Tty-Chin Eei Hui inspired Malaysia to a win over the fancied Indonesian shutters in the finals, to the joy of the Malaysian badminton enthusiasts. However, the men couldn’t repeat the success, not withput Lee Chong Wei at least. Pei Tty-Eei Hui won the women’s doubles gold medal too to assert their claim as a truly world-class pair.


Archery: Recurve Archers

The Malaysian recurve archers, the men at least, are considered to be second only to South Korea in Asia, and among the top eight in the world. Hence, winning the Sea Games team gold medal would seem like a procession. Wrong – they were outfoxed, rather unimaginably, by Thailand. The women recurve archers too faltered, getting only a fourth place. In the end, a return of only one gold medal from a regional archery powerhouse is not good at all.

Sepak Takraw: Men’s Team

For a sport that has originated from Malaysia, and coming from the Malay word ‘sepak’ meaning kick, we should be the best in the world. But never mind, Thailand were better than us last time, as they always have been. Now, mega trouble looms ahead as not only have we returned with no gold medals, but we have also been soundly beaten by Myanmar, Vietnam and Laos. Something has to be done real soon or else we would be stuck in the doldrums for a really long time.

Shooting: The Whole Squad

Malaysia had been banking on the shooters to bring home a couple of gold medals at the very least to boost their medal tally. Instead, they have returned without a single gold medal to show, their poorest outing in years. The shooters cited mental breakdown as their downfall, but really, they should have been more prepared. The officials too have to shoulder the blame, as our once feared shooters have become laughing stalks.

*That is it from me. Do forgive me for any rueful comments made, and this is merely the writer’s perspective of things. In the end, it has been a successful Sea Games for Malaysia, but it could have been better. Whatever said and done, congrats to all the athletes, coaches and officials. Malaysia Boleh!


conan_cat said...

well, at least our sportsmen are growing and that's a good thing! :D 40 gold medals, that's not bad at all, really!

WeiZhong said...

Good job football team...

Clarisse Teagen said...

Heyyy... where's the cbox.
You ok? don't quit blogging just cause nuffnang doesn't accept you. Just keep going. :)

Everything's going to be fine.

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