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The next Southeast Asian Games host Myanmar may have concluded to remove the Summer Olympic sports of synchronized swimming and fencing from the biennial multi-sport event, but the fight is still on for the aquatic sport.
The Indonesian Swimming Association’s (PRSI) head of the synchronized swimming division, Fitrah Utami Black, says Indonesia has joined forces with Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Brunei and Vietnam since 2010 to lobby Myanmar for the inclusion of the sport in the 2013 SEA Games in December.
“Not only have synchronized swimming associations from all of those countries lobbied Myanmar, but our federations, which are higher than associations, also have tried the same thing,” Utami told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.
She said the last time the seven countries tried to lobby Myanmar was in June during a Southeast Asian aquatic competition. “I haven’t had a chance to follow it up again [...] but we’re still fighting for it,” she said.
Head of athletes’ development at the Indonesian Fencing Association (IKASI), Khairuman, said his organization had also lobbied Myanmar to include fencing on the list, but to no avail.
“We’d love to have fencing at the SEA Games. But their decision is final,” he told the Post. “We may try to lobby Myanmar again but it seems impossible as the clock is ticking.”
Khairuman said Indonesia and other countries had even offered to give medals to Myanmar during the event in efforts to have fencing in the SEA Games and to encourage the host to develop its fencing although he admitted that there was no sportsmanship in that offer.
“Let’s say if they want silver or bronze medals, other countries are ready to give the medals to them. But the offer did not work because for one reason they don’t have a fencing association to organize the sport at the event,” he said.
Being the organizer of such an event gives a privilege to the host, as they decide what sports to run, often informed by which ones will or will not favor them in the medal stakes, synchronized swimming and fencing are definitely not on Myanmar’s list.
In a SEA Games council meeting in July in Myanmar, the host decided to organize 31 sports for competition and three exhibition sports, namely chinlone, tarung drajat and vovinam.
Apart from synchronized swimming, four other sports, which Indonesia would have been medal favorites for, will be absent. The four sports are in-line skating, rock climbing, kempo and fin swimming.
In the 2011 SEA Games, Indonesia’s synchronized swimming team won one silver and four bronze medals, according to Utami.
Sports to be featured at 2013 SEA Games in Myanmar:
1. Aquatic (diving, swimming, water polo)
3. Track and field
6. Pool and snooker
11. Cycling (BMX, cross-country, downhill and road race)
19. Muay Thai
20. Pencak silat
23. Sepak takraw
25. Table tennis
28. Traditional boat race