Down to the wire

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THE overall champions of the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games will be determined by the country winning between 80 to 90 gold medals and not 100 or more gold medals.

While Malaysia’s target as hosts is to finish overall champions with over 100 gold medals, a feat that would match the 2001 haul of 111 gold medals when we last hosted and emerged champions, Thailand could spoil the fairytale ending.

At the 2001 Games, Thailand attained 103 gold medals to end up as runners-up. Thailand have boldly predicted a 100-gold tally for this year’s Games.

If Malaysia and Thailand’s target are met, it will mean out of 11 participating countries, these two would bag 210 gold medals out of 405 at stake from 38 sports.

While both Malaysia and Thailand managed to win more than 100 medals at the 2001 Games, standards have risen.

Others like Indonesia have always been keen competitors. Vietnam have emerged as a strong contender in recent years.

An average of gold medals won calculated over the last four Games, sees Thailand topping the list with an average of 96 gold; having emerged champion in 2009 (83 gold medals), 2011 (100), 2013 (107) and 2015 (96).

Indonesia who hosted the 2011 edition have an average of 78 gold medals over four Games, winning 151 gold medals when they were host, 53 in 2009, 65 in 2013 and 47 at the last (2015) Games in Singapore.

Lesser countries like Cambodia, Laos, Brunei and Timor Leste, can win between one and five gold medals between them.

Purely based on averages, all indications are the overall champions will win less than 100 gold medals.

Olympic Council of Malaysia, assistant secretary and veteran and experienced sports official, Datuk Sieh Kok Chi, has boldly predicted Malaysia will emerge as champions — based on an analysis he did on winning patterns in the Games’ history and also the events picked for the KL Games.

His optimism stems from the removal of five sports from the 28th SEA Games programme that Malaysia did not win any gold or silver medals — canoe, floorball, rowing, softball and traditional boat race. This reduces the gold medal tally of Thailand by 11.

• Dropping five disciplines of the 28th SEA Games programme in which Malaysia did not win any gold — precision shooting, billiards/pools, keel boat and sanda.

• Addition of seven sports with 54 events that were not in the Singapore SEA Games — bodybuilding, cricket, ice hockey, ice skating, karate, lawn bowls, and weightlifting; Malaysia are strong in all seven.

• Addition of events in existing sports, such as track cycling, rhythmic gymnastics, squash and women’s football. (Track) cycling — sprint, team sprint, keirin, team pursuit, individual pursuit, omnium, scratch race, points race for men and women.

• And as hosts, he expects Malaysia to see between 10 per cent to 15 per cent improvement in the gold tally.

Based on Kok Chi’s analysis Malaysia can finish at the top with around 118 gold if
not more.

But despite all “tailoring”, indications are the battle of supremacy is going to be a close call between Malaysia and Thailand.

Among the sports making waves at international level include badminton, athletics, hockey, diving, swimming, track cycling, tenpin bowling, lawn bowl and archery. But the question going begging is whether Malaysians peaked too early?

But coaches have assured that all is going according to plan come Aug 19 — amidst the fact that many NSAs are still being coy about their gold forecast.

Will Malaysia’s “master plan” to emerge champion fall into place, or will the race with Thailand go down to the wire. The verdict be known on Aug 30 but everything points to the champions buoyed only by about 90 gold medals.

TONY is a sports journalist with close to four decades’ experience

and is passionate about local sports.

He can be reached at​