Filipino boxers rule the ring in SEA Games finals

James EDGAR
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Malaysia won the first ever gold in a competition sanctioned by the IOC with a win in Hearthstone

Filipino fighters punched their way to seven boxing golds at the Southeast Asian Games' very own Thrilla in Manila in front of a raucous home crowd on Monday.

The fifth and final day of the boxing programme climaxed with 13 medal bouts at the Philippine International Convention Center Forum in the capital, and the boxing-mad host nation was not disappointed.

Carlo Paalam, Rogen Ladon, Charly Suarez, James Palicte and Eumir Felix Marcial picked up golds in the men's bouts, while Josie Gabuco and Nesthy Petecio won women's titles.

Thai fighters took five of the remaining gold medals, with Vietnam the only other nation on top of the podium.

The biggest ever SEA Games, which was opened by local boxing icon Manny Pacquiao on Saturday November 30, enters its last day of full competition on Tuesday and the Philippines basketball team will be taking on Thailand in the evening final after both teams won their Monday semi-finals.

This edition is the first time eSports is being represented at a multi-sport competition sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee, and the first medals have been awarded at the San Juan Arena in the capital.

Malaysia won the first ever gold with a win in the category of mixed Hearthstone -- a popular online card game -- while Thailand took the mixed title for battle game Arena of Valor.

It was a day to remember for Singaporean Peter Gilchrist, 51, who won his sixth consecutive English billiards gold.

The reigning world champion and current world number one beat familiar foe Nay Thway Oo from Myanmar 3-0 at the Manila Hotel.

The Philippines have stormed ahead in the medals table with 136 golds, but there is a two-way battle between Thailand (84) and Vietnam (79) for second place. Indonesia were in fourth with 69.

Seven of the last 11 home nations have finished top of the medals table at the SEA Games, where the flexible sporting programme is traditionally heavily weighted towards the home team.

- Swimming finale -

Olympic champion Joseph Schooling got back to winning ways on the final evening of swimming at the aquatics centre at the main Games hub in New Clark City, with his Singaporean team cruising to victory in the 4 x 100m medley relay.

Butterfly star Schooling has vowed to "fix" his physique after winning only one individual gold medal at the Southeast Asian Games, less than eight months before his title defence at Tokyo 2020.

His compatriot Quah Zheng Wen added another two golds -- the 200m butterfly and the medley relay -- to take his overall tally to six, having already won the 100m and 200m backstroke, and the 4 x 100m and 4 x 200m freestyle relays.

Speedsters Jonathan Tan Eu Jin and Teong Tzen Wei, also from Singapore, secured a one-two in the men's 50m freestyle -- the fastest event in the pool.

Quah Ting Wen and Quah Jing Wen also completed a double for the city-state in the 100m butterfly.

Over at the brand new 20,000-seater athletics stadium, Vietnam's Duong Van Thai added to his 1,500m title with a win in the 800m, while compatriots Dinh Thi Bich and Khuat Phuong Anh came first and second in the women's 800m final.

Home favourites Melvin Calano and Clinton Bautista won the men's javelin and 110m hurdles, and Thai sprint teams won both 4 x 100m relays.

- Malaysia protest -

Earlier Malaysia complained to Games organisers after one of its gymnasts was stripped of a gold medal two days after she shared the podium with a teammate who she tied with.

Rhythmic gymnast Izzah Amzan finished level on points in the ribbon event in Manila with Koi Sie Yan on Saturday, and officials eventually decided to award them both golds despite Amzan's routine being judged less difficult following a protest by Malaysia.

However, a day later, Amzan's gold was relegated to silver.

"I don't understand why it was changed," Malaysia's chef de mission Datuk Megat Zulkarnain Omardin told AFP by phone, adding that SEA Games rules say both gymnasts should get gold in such circumstances.

"We have submitted our protest," he said. "We are still waiting for the reply."