The 31st Southeast Asian Games ends today. After all the delays and COVID-19 fears, there’s no doubt that this year’s event has made a mark.
With a record-breaking gold medal count, Vietnam has emerged as the overall winner, followed by Thailand and Indonesia. The two-week event — filled with thrill, excitement, fun, some rain, and scenes of jubilation — proved we are, indeed, heading to a “stronger Southeast Asia.”
So much has happened in Hanoi and other neighboring provinces that hosted sporting events in the most hospitable and remarkable of ways. Vietcetera congratulates all the winners and participants who raised their nations’ flags high and proud. Big kudos to Vietnam and the SEA Games organizing committee, who pushed barriers to make this event a success beyond compare.
To continue the celebration, we listed five of the most memorable and meaningful moments at the 31st SEA Games.
U-23 men’s football win
From Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, loud cheers erupted and thousands of Vietnamese flags were raised and waved on Sunday night after Vietnam’s U-23 men’s football team defeated Thailand. In a championship match that saw audiences in and beyond My Dinh National Stadium in the capital city watching with anticipation, Vietnam didn’t disappoint.
While the game started off in less intense ways, with the Vietnamese team struggling to get the ball down, the “golden” moment came in the 83rd minute when Nham Manh Dung head the ball flawlessly into the net. The 1-0 win against Thailand meant Vietnam retained its crown, having also reigned supreme at the U-23 match at the 30th SEA Games held in the Philippines in 2019.
While we wait for the spectacular closing ceremony Vietnam is preparing for tonight, the opening ceremony held on May 12 has cemented Vietnam’s name as one of the best SEA Games hosts.
The virtual graphic shows, cultural dance performances, arts showcase, and the powerful parades of the contingents inside the massive My Dinh Stadium were an event on its own — an incredibly meaningful experience for every single athlete, coach, and spectator who looked forward to seeing the 31st SEA Games come to fruition.
The ceremony closed with a musical performance of the official SEA Games theme song, “Let’s Shine.”
The pandemic may have delayed the sporting event, but everyone would agree that it was all worth the wait.
Billiards legend Efren “Bata” Reyes and his Vietnamese fans
The Games is an intense competition, but it’s certainly more than that. It’s about camaraderie, sportsmanship, and for many Vietnamese billiards fans, a chance to meet their “hero.” Philippines’ billiards legend Efren “Bata” Reyes was surprised by the love and adoration local fans showered him during his match on May 19 against Nguyen Tran Thanh Tu in the semifinals of the one-cushion carom event.
Reyes, who has had an incredible 40-year career in billiards and a talent that’s second to none, lost 55-100 to win the bronze medal. But after the match, the rising Vietnamese billiards star took a selfie with Reyes and expressed how the latter inspires many young Vietnamese players.
Reyes came out of the venue with a large crowd waiting to meet and greet him; some even brought along a painting of Reyes for an autograph.
“I can see that many Vietnamese fans were looking forward to seeing me play. I don't play carom frequently, and that's why I did not do well. Even when I lost, many supported me, and I want to thank you all so much,” Reyes told VnExpress.
Love on ‘track’
On May 15, while Vietnam was celebrating the gold medals it clinched from the track and field events, long jump medalist Nguyen Tien Trong got the greatest, sweetest win of all: A “yes” from his now-fiancee Nguyen Thi Phuong Trinh.
Trong was down on one knee as he pulled out a ring and proposed to Trinh, who was sitting at the audience bench. Trinh also competed at the SEA Games for the sepak takraw team.
According to his teammates, Trong did his best to win gold at the Games so he could propose to Trinh.
Days before the proposal that was celebrated by the whole SEA Games delegation, one spectator also got down on one knee to ask for his partner’s hand in marriage at the same stadium.
Vietnam’s first gold medal
Call it lucky charm or what, but it was the national kurash team that gave Vietnam its first gold medal at the 31st SEA Games.
To Thi Trang of the women’s kurash wrestling competition won in the 48kg category on May 10. After Trang’s victory, the team garnered more gold medals.
Kurash refers to ancient wrestling styles that originated in Central Asia. It’s been included in international events since 1990s and was introduced at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia and at the 30th SEA Games in the Philippines.