Although Malaysia only finished fourth in the overall standings - behind Indonesia (182), Thailand (107) and Vietnam (96) - this is their second best haul outside the country, the best being Korat 2007 with 68 gold medals.
National Sports Council (NSC) director-general Datuk Zolkples Em-bong was all smiles as he praised the Malaysian athletes for their fighting spirit in overcoming severe adversity at the Games.
“Before we left for Palembang and Jakarta, I told the athletes to expect the worst, especially from the local fans and biased judging in subjective sports,” Zolkples said at a press conference yesterday.
“True enough, there were several issues where athletes cried foul over the judging or Indonesian fans totally disrespected our national flag and anthem, something rarely seen in other countries.
“But I’m proud that our athletes managed to overcome the hostility and even defied the odds to win surprise gold medals.”
He was referring to the fencing squad who won two gold medals through the efforts of Joshua Koh in the individual epee and men’s sabre team - ending a 22-year wait - and the men’s 4x400m relay team.
Zolkples also defended the initial target of only 45 gold medals, explaining that it was due to several factors such as the athletes’ current form and biased judging in subjective sports.
“The fencing squad only targeted a solitary gold but they got two, which was a real bonus. Our synchronised swimming team again made a clean sweep of the five gold medals despite having an initial target of only three,” he said.
“There may be biased judging throughout the Games but our athletes are just too good and it’s hard not to award the gold to them.”
Among the other high-achievers were diving, which grabbed seven of the eight gold medals at stake (they only entered for seven events), swimming (5), bowling (5) and water ski (4).
“Aquatics is definitely the top sport after delivering 19 gold medals through swimming, open water swimming, synchronised swimming and diving,” said Zolkples.
“Football also deserves credit for their hard-fought win over Indonesia, which is really the mother of all golds.
“I even heard that Indonesia are willing to trade 50 gold medals in exchange for the football gold!”
Nevertheless, Zolkples was critical of several sports which failed badly at the Games, and his wrath was aimed in particular at the sepak takraw squad, who had a dismal campaign - winning only two bronze medals.
The team targeted at least one gold but they even lost 3-0 to Indonesia in the inter-regu.” he said.
“They have had many chances in the past. I think it’s time to disband the team and perhaps try and develop younger players for the 2014 Incheon Asian Games.
“Gymnastics also fared badly, in particular the men’s team. Despite all the training stints they had in China, they failed to win a single medal.”
The outstanding athletes of this Games are synchronised swimming’s Katrina Ann Hadi and Shareen Png, who won five gold medals each, and bowling’s Adrian Ang, who bagged four gold medals and a bronze.