Tolentino wary of medal chances in Cambodia SEAG

Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Bambol Tolentino said the country’s back is against the wall to retain its fourth-place overall finish at the Southeast Asian Games following the latest rule that host Cambodia would impose in the 32nd edition of the biennial meet next year.

POC president Bambol Tolentino

Tolentino said Cambodia imposed a rule that only the host athletes could field a 100 percent participation in combat sports or martial arts, while limiting the others to vie in 70 percent of the events stake in the sport.

“That benefits the host best, while putting at risk our chances for the medals,” Tolentino said.

Tolentino was the most vocal among members of the SEA Games Federation meetings who were against the particular rule, but the Cambodians, he said, took the cue from the 2017 Games in Kuala Lumpur when Malaysia imposed a similar regulation.

In that edition, the Philippines wound up sixth overall with 23 gold, 34 silver and 63 bronze medals in 38 sports comprising 404 events.

This time, however, Cambodia announced with finality it would be hosting 608 events from 49 sports. It’s the biggest SEA Games in terms of events, but one that potentially benefits the host as far as Tolentino is concerned.

Cambodia included two indigenous sports – Kun Bokator, a martial art practiced by the ancient Khmer military, and Ouk Chatrang, also a Khmer chess game. They offer 21 and six gold medals, respectively.

Vietnamese martial art Vovinam also offers 30 events and fin swimming with 24 events.

In contrast, there were only four gold medals – two for each gender – at stake in artistic gymnastics compared to eight for men and six for women in the Olympic and world championship programs.

The Philippines hosted the most number of sports at 56 but with 530 events in 2019, while Vietnam had a 40-sport, 526-event Games last May. Brunei owns the record-low program of 22 sports and 233 events in 1999.