Martial Arts Take Center Stage at Southeast Asian Games

Martial Arts Take Center Stage at Southeast Asian Games
The Southeast Asian Games are well underway in Cambodia. The schedule features a host of martial arts events from well known Olympic sports (like judo and taekwondo) to somewhat less popular combat sports (pencak silat and arnis) to the downright obscure (Vietnamese vovinam and Cambodia's own kun bokator).

With the plethora of unusual competitions on offer, the SEA Games have been called the world's largest sporting event.The reason for what could be considered an over-inclusiveness is, in part, to give every country a chance to pad their medal resume (by itself, vovinam, a style barely known outside of Vietnam and its immediate neighbors, accounted for 120 total medals).

One of the martial arts that has become something of a mainstay at the games, pencak silat, concluded Wednesday with traditional power Indonesia leading the way with 9 gold medals. Malaysia and Vietnam both brought home four golds. The competition wasn't without controversy, though, as it was initially rule that Indonesia's Safira Dwi Meilanie, after leading the whole way in the women's 55 kg sparring finals against Vietnam's Nguyen Hoang Hong An, gave up after having her arm entangled. However, following a protest from the Indonesian squad, the decision was reversed awarding Meilanie the gold. But after another protest from Vietnam, it was decided to award both women gold, which brought the total number of silat gold medals awarded up, from a "mere" 22, to 23.

The games will continue through next week with arnis, kickboxing and judo all slated to begin on Saturday.

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