Let's give S'pore's SEA Games 2019 athletes their due credit

Unexpected wins and losses.

Julia Yeo | December 15, 2019, 07:01 PM

The 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in the Philippines came to a close on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019.

Singapore’s athletes returned home with a grand total of 167 medals — 53 golds, 46 silvers, and 68 bronzes.

Even though it was a dip from our takings from the 2015 and 2017 games, it was still a decent haul.

While there’s been much chatter about the ups and downs — unexpected losses, upset wins, sportsmen “letting us down” — the long hours of training and hard work that our 659 athletes have put in to represent the country needs to be properly acknowledged.

So, here’s a big thank you to our sportsmen and women.

A SEA Games full of surprises

From record-breaking swims, unexpected comebacks, to the breaking of gold medal streaks, this 2019 SEA Games has been full of surprises.


The softball team was undoubtedly one of the biggest turnarounds, from losing to Philippines 0-8 in the preliminaries to triumph with a score of 6-1 over the favourites in the finals.

Photo by Stanley Yeo/Baseball and Softball Association Singapore

If there's anyone who can talk about perseverance, it's undoubtedly these guys.

While in Singapore, they lost their training grounds in Kallang, but that did not stop them from claiming gold at the regional meet.

Figure skating

Another surprise gold came from Chloe Ing, who came from behind to win the ladies' individual figure skating event.

Chloe Ing of Singapore performs her routine during the SEA Games women's figure skating held in Manila on December 1, 2019. Chloe Ing bagged the gold medal followed by Allison Perticheto of the Philippines for silver, and Savika Refa Zahira of Indonesia for bronze. Photo by George Calvelo/NurPhoto via Getty Images

For Ing, who works two part-time jobs to supplement the cost of her training, this win didn't come easy at all.

Underwater hockey

In a sense, the 2019 SEA Games was a platform where many of Singapore's trailblazers took the opportunity to shine.

Without a doubt, the underwater hockey team showed up stronger than ever in their SEA Games debut, with both men's and women's teams clinching top spots.


The local e-sports teams also performed admirably at their SEA Games debut, with Thomas Kopankiewicz (Blysk) winning a silver at Starcraft II and Chew Khai Kiat taking a podium spot with bronze at Hearthstone.

Starcraft 2 Thomas Kopankiewicz. Photo by Feline Lim via Lee Hsien Loong/Facebook

Chew Khai Kiat. Photo via Singapore Esports Association


The swimmers definitely blew their rivals out of the water, again.

SEA Games Team Singapore swimmers Photo via Andy Chua/SNOC

While they had matched their gold count in 2015, the national team's head coach recognised that the debut swimmers performed surprisingly well.

From six individual gold medalists in 2015, the number doubled to 12 this year, as several first-timers managed to win individual golds.

A few of them even managed to outdo their seniors, such as debutant Darren Chua, 19, who went home with five golds, two of them from individual events.

While competition between teammates exist in the water, the relationships between the swimmers seem pretty smooth-sailing.

Singapore's Joseph Schooling (R) celebrates with compatriot Zhen Wen (L) after winning the men's 100m swimming butterfly during the SEA Games (Southeast Asian Games) at the Aquatic center in Clark, Capas, Tarlac province, north of Manila on December 6, 2019. Photo by TED ALJIBE/AFP via Getty Images

Despite losing his 50m butterfly gold streak to teammate Teong Tzen Wei, Joseph Schooling heartily congratulated the younger swimmer after the race.

Table tennis

The table tennis team, which lost unexpectedly at both men's and women's doubles events, came back stronger in the individual event, taking home two golds and silvers.

Photo via Sport Singapore/Dyan Tjhia

It was an incredible comeback, with Singapore competing against Singapore at both finals.

Water polo

Perhaps the most unexpected loss was from the men's water polo team, which fell from the top spot for the first time in 52 years.

Both men's and women's water polo teams returned home with silvers.

Photo via Andy Chua/SNOC

But the SEA Games will return in two years, and the players will be back stronger than before.

After all, setbacks can be temporary, and victory only tastes sweeter after that.

Top image collage via Team Singapore/FB, TED ALJIBE/AFP via Getty Images,  Annice Lyn/Getty Images, Feline Lim via Lee Hsien Loong/Facebook