THE Borneo Games will be making a return to Brunei tomorrow after more than half a century, and it just might be country's year to relive glorious memories.
First introduced in 1954 in Seria, the Sultanate won the inaugural tournament and made it three in a row after capturing the title in 1955 in North Borneo (Sabah) and in Sarawak the next year.
Discontinued in the early 1970's, the tournament was revived in 2005 when Sabah hosted the event and was crowned overall champions.
Sarawak won the Games in 2007 when they hosted the event, and this year is Brunei's best chance of winning the tournament again.
Hosting the event for the first time since its was modified, the country will be represented by 154 athletes at the eight-day tournament which will officially kick off at 3pm tomorrow at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas.
The other participating teams are East Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, Labuan, South Kalimantan and next year's Malaysian Games (SUKMA) hosts Melaka - an invitational team and the only one from outside Borneo.
Defending champions Sarawak will also be sending 154 athletes, with Sabah having 146 names on their athlete list.
Labuan is sending 62 athletes, East Kalimantan 40, Central Kalimantan 12, Melaka 14 and South Kalimantan only two.
As past winners, the Rhinos and the Hornbills will be expected to be Brunei's strongest challengers to the title — especially since it is these three teams which have the largest contingents this year.
Brunei finished third in both 2005 and 2007, returning with seven gold, 11 silver and 17 bronze medals in Sabah and improving on that when they won nine gold, eight silver and 16 bronze medals in Sarawak.
The Sultanate was represented by 137 athletes in Sarawak, though the number of athletes Brunei sent to Sabah could not be obtained.
Enjoying home advantage for the first time in the tournament's new format, it is expected that Brunei at least better their haul of two years ago.
Ten gold medals look like a good round number, and it will not be mission impossible.
Ninety-two gold, 92 silver and 102 bronze medals are at stake at this year's edition of the biennial meet in nine different sports; athletics, badminton, billiards, gasing (top-spinning), hockey, lawn bowls, pencak silat, sepak takraw and tennis.
Cue sports and pencak silat are making their debut at the Games, and both the teams have already predicted a podium finish - especially the manager of the latter who has said he is aiming for two gold medals.
Though Sarawak have vowed they are coming to Brunei to defend their title, the state will be represented mostly by athletes at the development level since many of their top names are sitting for government exams or preparing for the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
Their chef de mission has already stated they will be banking on sports such as athletics, badminton, women's hockey and tennis for the medals, with the manager of the lawn bowls team said that his target is three gold medals.
With their wealth in experience, Brunei are also expected to deliver in lawn bowls - with gasing, hockey and pencak silat also strong contenders for gold.
The Borneo Games are organised with the aim of strengthening the relationship amongst neighbouring communities but it also serves a wider purpose.
The exposure the athletes gain at the Games will help them cement their place in their respective national squads and give them the experience needed to merit a place at bigger international events.
If the athletes manage to apply what they have learnt in practice and come up with good performances, the medals will follow and the Borneo Games will once again be fondly remembered.
Courtesy from Brunei Times