CAPAS, Tarlac — The biggest Southeast Asian Games closed out with a bang, Wednesday evening at the cavernous New Clark City Athletics Stadium here.
And the stars of the show were none other than the 5,630 athletes who competed, thrilled, and put on a show for the past three weeks.
The biggest cheers of the night were reserved for the Filipino athletes, who together ended the Philippines’ 14-year overall championship drought by winning 387 out of the 1783 medals in the event.
Of those mints, 149 were gold. Fourteen of those came from arnis; 11 from athletics; and 10 from dancesport. Also playing a huge part in the gold rush were combat sports taekwondo (8), boxing (7), and wushu (7). Debuting events and extreme sports obstacle racing and skateboarding also gave six golds each.
Hailed as the male and female athletes of the games were swimmers Quah Zheng Wen of Singapore and Nguyễn Thị Ánh Viên of Vietnam.
Quah, who is just 23 years young, took down six of the whopping eight events he took part in.
The Singaporean won the 100m backstroke (53.79s, MR); 200m backstroke (2:00.06, MR); and 200m butterfly (1:56.61). He was also part of the 4×100m freestyle relay team (3:16.82, MR); 4×200m freestyle relay (7:17.88, MR); and the 4×100m medley relay (3:38.63). He copped silver in the 100m butterfly (51.87) and 50m backstroke (25.85).
Nguyen, on the other hand, won six of her eight events as well.
The 23-year-old sensation, who is known as the Little Mermaid, won the 100m backstroke (1:02.97); 200m backstroke (2:15.32); 200m freestyle (2:00.75); 400m freestyle (4:13.20); 200m individual medley (2:15.51); and 400m individual medley (4:47.85). She had two silvers as well in the 800m freestyle (8:48.65) and 50m backstroke (29.64).
For the first time ever, a fair play award was also given.
None other than surfer hero Roger Casugay was the recipient. He was also the flag-bearer of the hosts in the closing ceremony.
During the men’s longboard competition of the tournament, Casugay rescued his Indonesian opponent in the midst of the competition.
Casugay eventually won gold two days later. Up to this day, he denies that his actions were heroic.
“I didn’t really save him from drowning. He is a good swimmer. I just calmed him down,” he said in numerous reports.
Besides the real life superheroes of the games, entertaining the athletes and the fans that gathered for the final day of the games were the Black Eyed Peas, Ariel Pineda, and Lea Salonga.
To close out the ceremony, the hosting of the SEAG was passed to Vietnam.