SEAG:  WE  ARE  THE CHAMPS!

[PHOTO AT LEFT - SHINING MOMENT: Two members of the Philippine baseball team wave the tri-color in celebration of their gold medal win over Thailand, 11-0, at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila.]

MANILA, December 2, 2005 (STAR) By Abac Cordero - The Philippines dished out its Sunday best and turned a day of reckoning to coronation day.

Filipino athletes came out with their best daily output of 23 gold medals and silenced the opposition on and off the field to become the newest sporting power in the region with the 23rd Southeast Asian Games crown in the bag with one day left in the biennial meet.

After eight days of full action, the Philippines now has a total of 113 gold, 77 silver and 87 bronze medals. It is a marked improvement from the 49-53-76 it scored in the 2003 Vietnam SEA Games.

Only four of the 439 golds are left to be disputed today — two each in chess and volleyball.

Later in the day, the Philippines will officially be crowned overall champion of the Games during the closing ceremonies at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila’s Rizal Park, the first time it achieved the feat since joining the meet in 1977.

Thailand, which created a stir with complaints of unfair judging in the Games, will wind up second with a total count of 76 gold, 77 silver and 109 bronze medals, while 2003 host Vietnam will finish third with 64-57-81.

Malaysia is fourth with 55-47-53, followed by Indonesia with 46-72-77, Singapore with 42-29-53, Myanmar with 13-34-48, and Laos with two gold medals.

Imported fireworks worth millions of pesos will light up the sky during the closing rites where President Arroyo will join the nation in celebrating the momentous event and the recognition it richly deserves.

On a day the Philippines braced for a Sunday surge by its closest pursuers, the Filipino athletes instead did the offensive move, stamping their class in various fronts and finishing the day with their most productive output in the entire campaign — 23 golds at presstime.

That even bettered the hosts’ 20-gold medal splurge in Day 2 that set in motion the country’s serious bid for the overall crown, which the Filipino athletes barely lost to Indonesia when they fell short by just one gold during the 1991 SEAG here.

This time, there was a downpour of gold medals from all over.

The dragon boat team swept the last three gold medals in the traditional boat race, completing a first-ever romp by any sports association of its events — six — at La Mesa Dam in Quezon City; the muay thai bets also took three golds at the GSIS gym in Pasay City; the men’s golf squad ran away with two golds at The Country Club in Laguna; the archers hit their mark for another two golds in Subic; and the bowlers took the most coveted golds in the sport — the masters crowns.

In a way, those feats showed who’s the master of ’em all.

The Filipinos finished fourth the last time out and became so determined to improve on that poor finish the moment the government officially said yes to the hosting of the

event.

The last time the Philippines hosted the SEA Games in 1991, it won 91 gold, 62 silver and 84 bronze medals, finishing a close but disappointing second to Indonesia’s 92-86-69.

This time, the Philippines will finish No. 1.

"I attribute this victory to all our athletes, to all the coaches, the sports officials and even the parents of our athletes. And all of us, too," said Philippine Sports Commission chairman Butch Ramirez.

"But the heart of this victory belongs to the athletes. This is a very sentimental moment for us. This is the first time that we’ve won the overall championship," he added.

Philippine Olympic Committee president Jose Cojuangco, also the chairman of the Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee, said it’s about time that the Philippines enjoy such billing.

"The Philippines becoming the overall champion in the SEA Games is inevitable. The Filipino spirit has triumphed. The athletes’ and the sports officials’ hard work paid off," he said.

MEDAL TALLY

(As of 7 p.m.)

Countries G S B

1.PHILIPPINES 113 77 87

2.THAILAND 76 77 109

3.VIETNAM 64 57 81

4.MALAYSIA 55 47 53

5.INDONESIA 46 72 77

6.SINGAPORE 42 29 53

7.MYANMAR 13 34 48

8.LAOS 2 5 11

9.BRUNIE 0 2 2

10.CAMBODIA 0 3 7

11. TIMOS LESTE 0 0 3

Sunday' just like any other day for host country 12/04 4:58:35 PM

MANILA (AP) - It was billed as Super Sunday at the Southeast Asian Games, the day when 100-plus medals on offer would decide the gold medal title.

Instead, it turned out to be just like any other day for the host Philippines -- winning more gold medals and dominating the 10 other countries in the competition like they had for the past week.

And likely completing the inevitable.

With one-third of the events completed Sunday, the Philippines had taken a lead of more than 30 golds over second-place Thailand. Ten years ago, when Manila last hosted these Games, the Philippines missed winning the title by a single gold.

By mid-afternoon Sunday, the host country had moved from its overnight 90 to 95 golds, thanks in part to Christabel Martes' win in the women's marathon and three golds in traditional boat races. Malaysia had a good day in rhythmic gymnastics, winning three of the four disciplines.

The men's soccer final between Thailand and Vietnam was scheduled later Sunday, as were finals in baseball, bodybuilding, judo, weightlifting, sepak takraw and shooting.

Eight more medals will be decided on the final day Monday before the closing ceremonies.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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