Malaysia shrug off judging controversies

Hosts insist they have not received any official complaint from the other 10 countries

Malaysia dismissed concerns over controversial judging at the SEA Games as the hosts finished the competition with a record 145 gold medals yesterday, more than twice the number of second-placed Thailand.

The home team won five of the seven gold medals on offer on the final day, a typically dominant performance as they ended the Games with more than one-third of the 406 titles handed out.

Malaysia, who won 62 gold medals at the last SEA Games in Singapore in 2015, topped the table for the first time since 2001, when they also hosted the biennial Games.

Besides 145 golds, the hosts also won 92 silvers and 86 bronzes for a total of 323 medals.

Thailand finished second with 72 golds, Vietnam (58) were third and Singapore (57) fourth.

Thai and Indonesian officials have hit out at the judging standards, and there have been a welter of complaints and videos online, many under the #ShameOnYouMalaysia hashtag.

But Ahmad Shapawi Ismail, director-general of Malaysia's National Sports Council, said none of the 10 visiting teams had registered an official complaint.

"We have a technical delegate appointed by the international (SEA Games) federation," he said yesterday.

"We have procedures on whatever protests or dissatisfaction (there is) from the teams and, until now, if I'm not mistaken we haven't received any official complaints."

He added: "The bottom line is, there are rules, there are procedures.

"There is a technical delegate appointed by the international sports federation, and we have to trust those people to deliver the competition properly."

Malaysia have never won an Olympic gold medal, although they had four silvers and a bronze at last year's Rio Games.

They won five golds at the 2014 Asian Games and six at the last Commonwealth Games.

Until now, if I’m not mistaken, we haven’t received any official complaints. Ahmad Shapawi Ismail, director-general of Malaysia’s National Sports Council

Newspapers trumpeted Malaysia's landslide victory, and were thick with full-page ads taken out by companies to congratulate the team.

Malaysia also celebrates its 60th independence anniversary today.

Foreign media were less effusive. The Bangkok Post sniffed: "For many Thai officials, athletes, journalists and fans, KL 2017 is the worst tournament in SEA Games history in terms of both officiating and organising."

Some of the judging controversies happened in silat, where Indonesia accused Malaysia of cheating in the men's artistic doubles final.

Indonesia's defending champions Yolla Primadona Jumpil and Hendy were reportedly enraged after finishing second in the competition with 554 points, behind Malaysia's Taqiyuddin Hamid and Rosli Mohd Sharif, who scored 582 points.

Indonesia team manager Edhy Prabowo claimed that the Malaysian duo were awarded an unfairly high score.

"It's absolutely not authentic... Never in the history of the male doubles has anyone had such inflated points," Prabowo said. "It has never happened before that judges awarded 582 points in this category. Never mind 582, even to get 570 is extremely difficult.

"They did not even deserve a third place, not even a fourth.

"I knew Malaysia would cheat. This is not good for our athletes, but we now have to accept this."

Yesterday, Malaysia won three gold medals in speed skating, which was making its Games debut, and two in diving.

Thailand took one in speed skating and one in weightlifting.

The SEA Games, which have just wrapped up their 29th edition, allow the host nation to adjust the programme to suit their strengths, meaning they often finish top of the table.

Winning one-third of the gold medals is not unusual for the home country.

When Indonesia held the 1997 Games, they won 194 out of 448 gold medals, or 43 per cent.

Malaysia's chef de mission Marina Chin admitted that their original target of 271 medals, the national record set in 2001, was probably conservative.

"When we made the target together with the national associations, I would admit that we were a bit conservative because we didn't know about the achievements of the other countries," she said.

The Games formally came to a close yesterday with a closing ceremony at the National Stadium, with the Philippines set to host the next edition in 2019. - AFP

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