Vietnam to trim 31st Southeast Asian Games number of sports

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There will be a drastic reduction of sports to be played at the next Southeast Asian Games in Vietnam in 2021 from the record 56 that were staged in the Philippines this year. The estimate is Vietnam will put 36 to 50 sports in the calendar and an initial list shows only 42, displacing 14.

For sure, arnis won’t be in the schedule. Arnis had 20 gold medals at stake in the just-concluded SEA Games with the Philippines capturing 16. Obstacle sports. where the Philippines swept all six gold medals, won’t also be in the Vietnam lineup. Four Olympic sports – surfing, triathlon, rugby 7s and modern pentathlon – are also missing in the initial rundown.

The challenge for the Philippines is to be competitive in eight of the 12 sports where it failed to bag a gold this year and they’re in the Vietnam roster – badminton, bowling, chess, football, handball, netball, table tennis and volleyball. Vietnam is expected to bring back two favorite sports, shuttlecock and vovinam.

Shuttlecock is Vietnam’s national street game which involves kicking a small ball back and forth. The ball is made out of rubber and plastic with colored cellophane ribbons showing the flight of what is similar to the shuttlecock in badminton. The counterpart game in the Philippines is “sipa.” Vovinam is a Vietnamese martial art and involves the use of the hands, elbows, legs, knees and weapons such as swords, knives, chisels, claws and fans.

Vietnam has hosted the SEA Games only once in 2003 when 442 events were held in 32 sports. Shuttlecock had seven gold medals at stake but vovinam wasn’t played. Vietnam took overall honors with 158 gold, 97 silver and 91 bronze medals. The Philippines finished fourth with 48, 54 and 75. Vovinam had 14 golds for grabs in the 2011 SEA Games in Jakarta and Vietnam bagged five gold, seven silver and two bronze medals. It was back in the calendar in the 2013 edition in Myanmar with Vietnam claiming six of the 18 gold medals.

Sports where the Philippines had at least a gold medal in this year’s SEA Games and won’t likely be in the Vietnam list are arnis, jiu-jitsu, modern pentathlon, obstacle course, rugby 7s, sambo, squash, surfing, triathlon, wakeboarding and windsurfing.

It’s a letdown for Filipino athletes who took gold medals in sports that were in the SEA Games this year but won’t be in 2021. Take squash, for example. The Philippines won its first-ever gold medal in squash in the SEA Games. In fact, the Philippines gained a medal in every squash event, another first. The Philippines, however, has never won a medal in squash in the Asian Games where world-class players from Pakistan, Hong Kong, Kuwait, South Korea and India participate. Filipino squashers look forward to playing in the SEA Games because it’s the only international competition where they stand to gain incentives. Without the SEA Games, they’re hard pressed to break through.

Philippine Squash Academy (PSA) president Bob Bachmann said the other day it’s critical to build on the momentum created by this year’s SEA Games. There’s an open invitation for Vietnam to join the Southeast Asian Squash Federation and Bachmann said if it agrees, the sport may yet make it to the next SEA Games. Bachmann said even if squash is classified as a demonstration sport in Vietnam, it will still be a platform to showcase the game. If it’s totally out of the SEA Games, the federation may organize a tournament to run parallel with the competition as a way to promote the sport.

On a positive note, there are 32 sports in the tentative Vietnam lineup where the Philippines took at least a gold this year. The list includes dancesport (10 golds) and e-sports (three golds). Basketball, gymnastics and taekwondo combined to deliver 15 golds for the Philippines and they’ll be back in the Vietnam SEA Games.

Because Vietnam will cut back at least 10 sports, the Philippines isn’t counting on duplicating or surpassing this year’s haul of 149 gold medals. But what the Philippines is determined to prove is the harvest was no fluke. It’ll be tough to retain the overall championship with Vietnam out to win top honors as host. Vietnam was second this year, showing it’ll be ready to go for No. 1 in 2021. For the Philippines, the battlecry is it doesn’t need home court advantage to stay top dog in Southeast Asia.

Source : Joaquin M. Henson | The Philippine Star


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