Dance floors to chess boards: Five unusual sports at the SEA Games

AFP

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Volunteers wipe the floor as a security guard looks on before the opening ceremony of the 31st Southeast Asian Games at the My Dinh National Stadium in Hanoi, Vietnam, on May 12, 2022.
YE AUNG THU / AFPVolunteers wipe the floor as a security guard looks on before the opening ceremony of the 31st Southeast Asian Games at the My Dinh National Stadium in Hanoi, Vietnam, on May 12, 2022.

Vietnam's SEA Games will feature little-known regional sports, from ancient wrestling to Chinese chess

There will be something for every sports fan at this year's Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, which officially open in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi on Thursday. 

While traditional Olympic events such as athletics and swimming need no introduction, little-known regional sport specialties will also get a rare chance to shine.

Dancesport

Physically demanding, this is not for the faint of heart as it balances the artistry of dance with the athleticism of sport.

Under flashing lights and often to the relentless beat of Latin-American music, couples strut the dance floor in elaborate, sensuous, head-turning moves.

WAKIL KOHSAR / AFP
WAKIL KOHSAR / AFPVietnam's Vu Hoange Anh Minh and Nguyen Truong Xuan perform during the dancesport event in the SEA Games in Capas, the Philippines, on December 1, 2019.

Kurash

An ancient, simple form of wrestling believed to be more than 3,000 years old, kurash sees two players aim to throw the other onto their backs.

Unlike many other combat sports, fighters are barred from attacking their opponents' legs, while kicking or choking into submission is frowned upon.

Pencak silat

Supposedly inspired by a battle between a tiger and a giant hawk, the Indonesian combat sport is a full-body fighting style that makes use of strikes, grapples, throwing, and weapons such as sickles and machetes.

Competitors are judged on their technique, and points are scored for successful strikes and throws while defensive points are awarded for parrying or evading attacks.

BAY ISMOYO / AFP
BAY ISMOYO / AFPPencak silat practitioners in Jakarta, Indonesia, on December 14, 2019.

Vovinam

Previously making appearances at the 2011 and 2013 Games, the Vietnam combat sport will be the only martial art performed at Thursday's opening ceremony.

Created in the 1930s, borrowing from elements of China's kung fu and other Asian martial arts, fighters make use of grapples with showy flying moves, and are judged on acrobatic skill and head-to-head fighting.

Xiangqi

Also known as Chinese chess, the game is a popular pastime seen on the streets of Vietnam and much of China. Making its SEA Games debut, it is more complex than its Western counterpart but the objective is the same, to checkmate your opponent's king.

Xiangqi matches are expected to be among the quietest of the 40 sports taking place at the Hanoi Games.

AP Photo/Andy Wong
AP Photo/Andy WongPeople playing Chinese chess in Beijing, China, on July 19, 2021.

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