The obscure sports that made it to the SEA Games


Soukanh Taypanyavong (right) of Laos competes with Tran Anh Tuan (left) of Vietnam in the men’s 55kg vovinam final at the 2013 SEA Games in Naypyidaw, Myanmar. (PHOTO: Soe Than Win/AFP via Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — Arnis, vovinam, kenpo: Do ​​these obscure sports add regional flavor to the SEA Games? Or are these unnecessary distractions that only serve to boost the host nations in the medal table?

This is a debate that has animated the biennial of the Games since it decided to include non-Olympic sports in its sports program since the 1970s. The first non-Olympic sport to be included was bowling in 1975, because this sport was widely practiced in the Southeast Asian region.

Over the decades, more and more sports were introduced – and they became increasingly idiosyncratic to the region, if not the single host country.

This has led to accusations that these sports are simply put on the Games program by the host countries so that they can easily win gold medals to increase their medal count and move up the rankings.

Here are some of the more obscure or debatable sports that have made the SEA Games sports program over its 31 editions:

Arnis (1995, 2005, 2019)

It is the national martial art of the Philippines, so it has naturally been included in the program of the SEA Games each time the country hosts the Games in 1995, 2005 and 2019. This combat sport emphasizes armed combat with sticks, knives and edged weapons, as well as “open hand” or unarmed techniques.

Arnis competitions use foam-padded sticks with thin rattan cores and are intended to break before serious injuries occur.

Beach Handball (2019, 2021)

The game is similar to the Olympic sport of handball, but is played on sand rather than in a sports hall. Since the ball loses most of its bounce on the sand, there is little to no dribbling.

Additionally, creative or spectacular goals, such as 360 degree jumps and alley-oops, are rewarded with two points instead of one.

Chess (2003, 2005, 2011, 2013, 2019, 2021)

While this strategic board game is enjoyed by millions around the world, debate remains as to whether it qualifies as a competitive sport. Chess proponents argue that the mental exertion during chess competitions manifests physically, as players will feel exhausted. Detractors, however, counter by saying that chess does not make the player physically stronger and therefore cannot be considered a sport.

Whatever the argument, chess is a highly competitive event between nations such as Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, and Myanmar, and features blitz, rapid, and standard competitions. The Chinese version, xiangqi, will also compete at the next Hanoi SEA Games.

28th SEA Games Singapore 2015 - Expo Hall 1 - 6/6/15 Chinlone - Liaison - Group - Singapore's Muhammad Izwandy Zamri (3rd from L) in action SEAGAMES28 TEAMSINGAPORE Mandatory Credit: SEA Games Organizing Committee of Singapore / Action Images via Reuters

Singapore’s chinlone team in action during the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore. (PHOTO: Singapore SEA Games Organizing Committee/Action Images via Reuters)

Chinlone (2015, 2017)

Myanmar’s national sport, Chinlone, is usually played non-competitively by individuals passing a rattan ball to each other, without using their hands, and trying to prevent the ball from hitting the ground.

It was first included as an exhibition sport of the SEA Games in 2013, when Myanmar hosted the event for the first time in 44 years, and was combined with the similar competitions of sepak takraw in 2015 and 2017.

Contract Bridge (2011)

Like chess, contract bridge is a popular and mentally stimulating card game that is nevertheless recognized by the International Olympic Committee as a sport. Although there is an element of randomness, tournaments try to minimize this by comparing the results of multiple pairs of teams in identical situations.

The Contract Bridge only appeared once at the SEA Games in 2011, but has since been incorporated into the program for the Asian Games in 2018 as well.

Dancesport (2005-2009, 2019, 2021)

Unlike social or exhibition dancing, dancesport competitors must maintain a high intensity throughout their performances. And here comes the biggest challenge: the music is kept confidential until the event, and the contestants have to adapt their dance routines and skills to the chosen music.

Standard competitions are contested in waltz, tango, Viennese waltz, slow foxtrot and quickstep. These SEA Games will also include samba, cha cha cha, rumba, pasodoble and jive competitions.

In this photo from Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019, esports (electronic sports) players compete in the qualifying rounds of the first Philippine esports team in Metro Manila, Philippines.  Esports, a form of competition using video games, will make its debut as a medal-winning sport at the 30th Southeast Asian Games in the country which will start in November this year.  (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

Esports players participating in the qualifying rounds to be part of the Philippines esports team for the 2019 SEA Games. (PHOTO: AP/Aaron Favila)

Esports (2019, 2021)

Another highly questionable sport, given that it is essentially a video game competition. The most common genres associated with esports are multiplayer online battle arena, first-person shooter, fighting, digital collectible card games, battle royale games, and real-time strategy .

The event debuted at SEA Games 2019, featuring six competitions – DOTA 2, Tekken 7, Starcraft II, Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, Arena of Valor and Hearthstone.

Finswimming (2003, 2009, 2011, 2021)

Finswimming is an underwater sport consisting of swimming with the use of fins. The sport held its first World Championships in 1976 and has made regular appearances at World Games since 1981.

The sport’s first appearance at the SEA Games was in Vietnam 2003, so it’s no surprise that it’s making its fourth appearance at the upcoming SEA Games in Hanoi.

Jiu-jitsu (2019, 2021)

This ancient Japanese martial art – with its Brazilian offshoot – became popular this decade due to its frequent use in mixed martial arts combat.

Focusing on effectively neutralizing an opponent in close combat with pins, keys and throws, the sport made its long-awaited debut at the 2019 SEA Games and will be on the program for the 2021 Hanoi Games.

Kenpo (2011, 2013)

Another martial art originating in Japan, this combat sport emphasizes striking techniques with the hands and feet.

It appeared at the 2011 and 2013 SEA Games, but has not been included since.

Kurach (2019, 2021)

Kurash is a form of wrestling commonly practiced in Central Asian countries such as Turkey, Armenia and Uzbekistan. Athletes use towels to hold their opponents and their goal is to knock their opponents down.

The sport debuted at the Asian Games in 2018 and was featured at the SEA Games for the first time in 2019.

Muay Thai (2005-2009, 2013, 2019), Kickboxing (2019, 2021)

This combat sport is massively popular in this region and is characterized by the combined use of fists, elbows, knees and shins to strike and squeeze. Thailand has been the main promoter of the sport and has produced a steady stream of top fighters since competition rules were codified in the 1920s.

Muay Thai has since been incorporated with other traditional martial arts to form kickboxing, a sport that debuted at the SEA Games in 2019.

Obstacle Course (2019)

Coming from mundane military training, this sport consists of running on foot and overcoming various physical challenges such as walls, barbed wire and bodies of water.

Despite being a tough test of endurance, strength, speed and dexterity, obstacle racing has grown in popularity in Southeast Asia in recent years thanks to events such as the Tough Mudder and the Spartan Race.

JAKARTA, INDONESIA - NOVEMBER 17: Competitors ride in thermals during Paragliding on day seven of the 2011 Southeast Asian Games at Gunung Mas Puncak Bogor on November 17, 2011 in Jakarta, Indonesia.  (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Competitors in the paragliding competition during the 2011 SEA Games in Jakarta. (PHOTO: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Paragliding (2011)

Usually a recreational sport, paragliding was featured as a competition at the 2011 SEA Games in Jakarta.

Participants compete in events such as Accuracy (landing the most accurately on a target mat), Open Distance (sliding the longest distance) and Goal Track (sliding the fastest to a finish point).

Sambo (2019)

Created in the early 1920s by the Soviet military to improve the hand-to-hand combat abilities of servicemen, the sport grew in popularity to be accepted as the third style of international wrestling, after Greco-Roman wrestling and wrestling. free.

A sambo athlete can win a match by making a perfect throw from a standing position so that their opponent lands on their back, or by achieving a submission hold that forces the opponent to give up.

Steering Wheel (2007, 2009)

Developed from a traditional Asian children’s game in which a feathered shuttlecock is thrown in a circle, the competition shuttlecock is similar to sepak takraw in which teams attempt to score points by kicking through the net .

Vovinam (2011, 2013, 2021)

The most widespread and developed Vietnamese martial art, vovinam is practiced with and without weapons, and uses the opponent’s strength and reaction.

Along with hand, elbow, and kick techniques, the martial art also features several unique techniques, such as scissor kicks to twist and grapple opponents to the ground.

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