It took a full week of competition after the opening ceremony for Thailand to assume their usual perch - they reached the top of the SEA Games medal table yesterday.
Again, it was their dominant track and field contingent who helped them achieve that feat - reaping 17 golds, 13 silvers and nine bronzes from the six-day competition at the National Stadium which ended yesterday.
The Thais claimed seven out of a possible 10 golds yesterday, chalking up victories in events such as the women's high jump, men's long jump and both 4x100m relays.
They were engaged in a neck-and-neck race with Vietnam, who eventually finished with 11 golds.
"The first two days, it was very close competition," said Prasobchai Kasemsant, vice-president of the Athletic Association of Thailand.
However, he reiterated that he had never doubted the ability of his athletes to retain their top status. "We always strive for the best, and we have a very solid foundation," he said. "We have so many of our former professionals helping us."
Thailand's gold medallists shared this confidence, with the women's 4x100m relay team insisting that they became more relaxed as the final approached - and that helped them to claim the day's penultimate gold.
Prasobchai also praised the Singapore men's 4x100m team, who put up a strong fight before finishing second, 0.25sec behind the victorious Thais, who clocked 38.99sec.
He said: "We know everyone has improved so much, especially Philippines, Vietnam and also Singapore. We are happy that we have good competition.
"If you have good competition, everyone will develop, and everyone benefits."
Indeed, the Thais are also improving. After claiming 14 track and field golds at both the 2009 and 2011 editions, they won 17 at the 2013 Games.
Prasobchai cites overseas training, especially in Austria and Germany, as part of the reason for their nearly two decades of dominance.
The other reason? "To make your own countrymen happy," he said.
The official was unfazed by top sprinter Jirapong Meenapra losing both his 100m and 200m sprint crowns. "Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose," he said.
Jirapong bounced back to help his country win the 4x100m relay title, and said: "I tried to forget the failure from 100m and 200m. Today, I gave 100 per cent."
Vietnam's athletics squad, despite finishing with six golds less than Thailand, were satisfied with their performance. According to team officials, their 48-strong squad smashed three SEA Games records and earned two standard Olympic qualifications.
Additional reporting by Lok Weng Seng
This article was first published on June 13, 2015.
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