Home advantage good as gold for SEA Games hosts, yet again


Clark (Philippines) (AFP)

The Philippines easily topped the Southeast Asian Games medal table with 149 golds, continuing a rich tradition at the regional Olympics whose flexible sporting programme is usually skewed in the hosts' favour.

The Philippines' best ever haul comes after they dominated all debut sports at the 30th SEA Games, and reintroduced their national martial art of arnis whose only previous showing was in Manila in 2005.

The previous best for the country was a total of 112 golds achieved at Manila 2005, followed by 91 in 1991 -- also in Manila.

But the Philippines is only following a trend at the biennial Games, where eight of the last 12 editions have finished with the hosts on top of the medals table.

Bragging rights are with the Filipinos for now, but with the next edition of the Games in Hanoi in 2021, it would be safe to assume Vietnam will hope to do one better than their second place this time around with 97.

Home advantage is a factor at many sports events including the Olympics, where hosts China topped the table for the first time in 2008 and Britain rose to third at London 2012.

But the effect is especially marked at the SEA Games, where the Philippines won just 24 golds at the last edition in Kuala Lumpur in 2017 -- as hosts Malaysia unsurprisingly finished top with 144 golds.

However, a strong showing in the Southeast Asian Games doesn't mean success on the bigger stage. In 2018, just a year after sweeping all before them in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia won just seven golds at the Asian Games in Indonesia.

And Myanmar's impressive second place at their home games in Nay Pyi Taw in 2013, with 84 golds, came before a haul of just two at the Asian Games in South Korea the following year.

The top contributor to the Philippines' gold haul was arnis, the little-known, stick-wielding martial art, with 14 out of the 20 golds available.

The hosts also won all six golds on the obstacle course, 10 out of 13 in dancesport, men's and women's golds in the 3x3 basketball and six out of eight in skateboarding -- all debut competitions at this year's record, 56-sport event.

The Philippines also topped the table in eSports -- making its first appearance as a medal sport at a major Games -- with three of the six available.

Despite the Filipino gold rush, the hosts fell well short of the record number of wins which remains Indonesia's huge haul of 194 in Jakarta in 1997.

Thailand won 183 on home soil in 2007, and Indonesia bagged 182 when the Games returned to Jakarta and Palembang in 2011. Vietnam secured 158 at Hanoi 2003, while Thailand got 157 in Chiang Mai in 1995.