Back Society » Sports » With 205 Gold Medals, Vietnam Finishes 1st at SEA Games, Breaking Previous Record

The closing ceremony, which took place last night, May 23, officially marked the end of this year’s Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games).

Planned for May 2021, the 31st SEA Games were postponed to 2022 as all participating members were ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic last year. This is the second time Vietnam has hosted, with sports events in Hanoi and nearby provinces. There were 526 events spanning 40 sports.

The Vietnamese delegation finished this SEA Games with a historic 205 gold, 125 silver, and 116 bronze medals, a level of success that was unexpected even for organizers. The figure smashed the previous record of 194 golds held by Indonesia at the 1997 SEA Games in Jakarta.

Athletics and swimming were the most victorious disciplines at 33 gold medals in total, accounting for nearly 20% of our gold haul. Outside of the two, gold medals from Olympic sports make up over 30% of the total number.

Thailand came second with 92 golds, 103 silvers and 136 bronzes, followed by Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Brunei and Timor Leste. All countries have at least one gold except for Timor Leste, which took home 3 silvers and 2 bronzes.

On May 23 morning, Head of the Vietnam Delegation Trần Đức Phấn held a press meeting to discuss our performance at the 31st SEA Games. He acknowledged that sports authorities were astonished by the unprecedented success of our athletes.

“When our technical department did pre-games assessments based on our strengths and the regional sports landscape, we predicted 145—185 gold medals,” Phấn explained at the meeting. “Still, the surprise came after our athletes did really well in some events because they could compete on home ground.”

He also credited the plentiful gold haul to the uninterrupted and consistent training by Vietnamese delegates during the past years, while many regional athletes might be more significantly affected by the pandemic. Moreover, Vietnam’s team morale was high thanks to the home advantage and ample support from local fans.

In SEA Games history, it’s common for hosting nations to emerge with the top amount of gold medals due to a range of reasons; the Vietnamese delegation also snagged the first position when we hosted in 2003.

However, Phấn also stressed that our recent victory at SEA Games is not reflective of future performances at bigger arenas like the upcoming Asian Games or the Summer Olympics.

“Even with that many golds at the SEA Games, we only aspire to get 3–5 gold medals at the Asian Games. Before the Asian Games 2022 were delayed, we built a plan to focus our investments on a small group of 30 athletes,” he added. “At Asian Games and the Olympics, our medal haul is always smaller and our ranking lower than Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, because they heavily invest in their strongest sports.”

Originally scheduled to take place in September 2022 in Hangzhou, China, the Asian Games 2022 were postponed due to the pandemic. A new date hasn’t been announced at the time of writing.

[Photo: Runner Quách Thị Lan celebrates after winning her first gold for the Vietnam delegation. Lan eventually finished SEA Games with 2 gold medals/Photo by Hoàng Triều via Người Lao Động]

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