The 22nd SEA Games took place in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City from December 5-13, 2003. This was the first time in history Vietnam hosted the largest regional sporting event and the first time Timor Leste participated in the SEA Games arena.
Around 5000 athletes from 11 participating nations participated in the Games, with Vietnam and Thailand competing in all the 442 events in 32 sports.
For the first time ever, Vietnam led the overall medal tally with a total of 158 golds, 97 silvers and 91 bronzes, leaving Thailand far behind with only 89 golds.
Fireworks light up the sky on the opening night of the Games
Vietnamese shooters accounted for 25 of the total 42 shooting gold medals at the Games, with Nguyen Manh Tuong contributing five golds (three individual and two team titles) – an exceptional achievement that has yet to be conquered by any shooters so far.
For such an impressive showing, Tuong was voted the best male athlete of the Games, alongside Singaporean Joscelin Yeo, who claimed the women’s title with six swimming gold medals.
Vietnamese athletes march on the opening night
To some extent, the 22nd SEA Games had basically changed the face and position of Vietnamese sports in the regional arena. Up to now, Vietnamese athletes have always finished in the top three of the overall SEA Games medal count. The success also enabled Vietnamese sport to move towards further destinations as well as greater goals, such as the Asian Games and the Olympic Games.
The successful organisation of the 22nd SEA Games affirmed Vietnam’s ability in hosting large sporting events, acting as a premise for the country to take the honour of hosting big international sport games later on, including the finals of the 2007 Asian Cup, the third Asian Indoor Games in 2009, the 2016 Asian Beach Games and especially the 18th Asian Games in 2019.