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Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games): Who are the athletes to have won most medals?

The Southeast Asian Games, also known as the SEA Games, takes place every two years and feature athletes from 11 Southeast Asian nations – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor-Leste (East Timor), and Vietnam. On 22 May 1958, while attending the Asian Games in Tokyo, Japan, delegates from Southeast Asian Peninsula countries agreed to establish their own sports organization. This concept was developed by Luang Sukhum Nayapradit, who was serving as the vice president of the Thailand Olympic Committee at the time.

The inaugural SEAP Games were hosted in Bangkok from 12 to 17 December 1959 and welcomed over 527 athletes and officials from six countries – Burma (now Myanmar), Laos, Malaya (now Malaysia), Singapore, South Vietnam, and Thailand – to participate in 12 sports. At the eighth SEAP Games in 1975, the Federation deliberated over the possible addition of Brunei, Indonesia, and the Philippines. By 1977, the games had adopted the name, Southeast Asian Games. In 2003, during the 22nd Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi–Ho Chi Minh City, East Timor was included, despite being geographically closer to the Pacific archipelago and not a member of ASEAN.

The SEA Games logo which was introduced at the inaugural SEAP Games in Bangkok in 1959, consists of rings that represent the member countries. Initially, there were six rings symbolizing the founding members. This number increased to ten with the addition of Brunei, Indonesia, and the Philippines in 1977. After the induction of East Timor in 2003, the 2011 Games saw the introduction of the 11th ring, reflecting the latest member of the Federation.

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Most successful athletes at the SEA Games

As of 2019, the title for the most decorated athlete in the history of the SEA Games goes to Singaporean swimmer Joscelin Yeo. She has amassed an impressive haul of 55 medals, including 40 gold, 12 silver, and 3 bronze. This record-breaking achievement was made during the 2005 Games, where Yeo surpassed the previous record of 39 gold medals held by fellow Singaporean swimmer Patricia Chan. 

From 1965 to 1973, Patricia Chan dominated the Southeast Asian Games, claiming 39 gold medals, a milestone that remained untouched by any Singaporean athlete in any sport until Yeo’s feat in 2005. Swimming has consistently been a strong discipline for the Southeast Asian nations, with the top five most successful athletes all hailing from this field. Swimmers Joseph Schooling (29 gold, 3 silver, and 2 bronze medals), Tao Li (29 gold, 1 silver, and 3 bronze medals), and Nguyễn Thị Ánh Viên (25 gold, 8 silver, and 2 bronze medals) occupy the third, fourth, and fifth positions, respectively.

Which athlete has won the most medals at the SEA Games?

Athlete (Nation)SportGoldSilverBronze
Joscelin Yeo (Singapore)Swimming40123
Patricia Chan (Singapore)Swimming39
Joseph Schooling (Singapore)Swimming2932
Tao Li (Singapore)Swimming2913
Nguyễn Thị Ánh Viên (Vietnam)Swimming2582
Donald Pandiangan (Indonesia)Archery2360
Richard Sam Bera (Indonesia)Swimming22149
Nurul Huda Abdullah (Malaysia)Swimming2241
Teerach Phopanich (Thailand)Gymnastics22
Shalin Zulkifli (Malaysia)Bowling2085
Ang Peng Siong (Singapore)Swimming20
Zheng Wen Quah (Singapore)Swimming1983
Ting Wen Quah (Singapore)Swimming18163
Pornchai Kaokaew (Thailand)Sepak takraw18
Leong Mun Yee (Malaysia)Diving1755
Jiawei Li (Singapore)Table tennis1432
Daniel Bego (Malaysia)Swimming1164
Wynne Prakusya (Indonesia)Tennis1151
Miguel Molina (Philippines)Swimming1177
Junhong Jing (Singapore)Table tennis11
Yayuk Basuki (Indonesia)Tennis1121
Triyaningsih (Indonesia)Athletics1111
Romana Tedjakusuma (Indonesia)Tennis1054
Rubilen Amit (Philippines)Billiards and Snooker1051
Amanda Lim (Singapore)Swimming1032
Tuck Yim James Wong (Singapore)Athletics1011

(Note – The list has been updated till the SEA Games 2019; ‘-’ denotes uncertainty in the count of silver and bronze medals).