SEA Games Sports You Didn't Know Existed

You'd think better of dancesport when you hear these other sports.

Throughout the history of the Southeast Asian Games or SEA Games, numerous sports have been included in the events, many of which are so obscure you’ve probably never heard of them before or considered as a sport.

That’s because SEA Games host countries want to maximize their gold medal hauls by introducing indigenous sports to the Games. This is thanks to a loophole in the SEA Games rules, which do not provide a limit to the number of sports. As a consequence, host countries would introduce obscure sports that their players are ridiculously good at—either because it is a national sport or because they invented it.

Take dancesport for example, which was introduced by the Philippines when it hosted the Games in 2005. While there is an ongoing debate on whether dancing is a sport or whether dancers are athletes, the Philippines included it in the SEA Games anyway, because why not. We have many good dancers! That sport added to our gold medal haul.

The following are other SEA Games sports you didn’t know existed.

1| Jolen or marbles

Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

Yes, the street game from your childhood was played in the SEA Games under a different name,  petanque, and with a different set of more professional-looking balls. It is played similarly to how you used to play marbles. The rules are simple: Score points by having more balls closer to the target than your opponent. Petanque was introduced in the SEA Games by Malaysia when it hosted it in 2001.

2| Sipa

Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

This traditional street game in the Philippines is actually widespread in Southeast Asia, where its Western name is shuttlecock. Sipa or shuttlecock originated in China 2,000 years ago. Players aim to keep the shuttlecock in the air by using different parts of their bodies except for their hands. It became part of the 22nd SEA Games in 2003 when Vietnam introduced it as the shuttlecock sport.

3| Bridge

Photo by Wikimedia Commons.
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Yes, the card game. Of all obscure sports, who knew that baraha would end up in the Southeast Asian Games, especially since it’s partly based on luck, more than skill? Bridge was added by Indonesia in the 26th SEA Games in 2011. It has never been added again since.

4| Paragliding

Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

Boracay is famous not only for its pristine, powdery, sugar-white sand, but also for paragliding. Many Filipinos regard paragliding as a recreational activity, but it is also a sport. In 2011, Indonesia added paragliding as a competitive sport in the 26th SEA Games. Paragliders were judged based on their aerobatic maneuvers.

5| Burmese chess

Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

When it comes to obscure sports introduced in the SEA Games, Myanmar takes the cake with sittuyin, a Burmese version of chess that no one else in Southeast Asia knows how to play. Myanmar included it in the 27th SEA Games in 2013, which, incidentally, was also their very first time to host the games. The country won gold medals in all sittuyin events.

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Mario Alvaro Limos
Features Editor, Esquire Philippines
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