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Gamers and G-strings: Five moments from the 30th SEA Games

Agence France-Presse



Fireworks add grandeur to the closing ceremony of the 30th SEA Games in Tarlac on 11 December 2009. (David John Cubangbang)

The 30th Southeast Asian Games, which drew to a grand close on Wednesday at the New Clark City in Tarlac, not only produced sporting drama, but also some unusual and unforgettable moments. Here are five of the most memorable:

President Rodrigo Duterte meets Roger Casugay during a meeting with the Philippine surfing team at the Malacañang Palace on 10 December 2019. (PCOO)

Super surfer

Filipino gold medalist Roger Casugay was hailed as a hero for saving an Indonesian competitor during the surfing.

Casugay, from the northern town of Bacnotan near the La Union venue, became an online sensation after he leapt from his longboard to help Arip Nurhidayat who had got into difficulty in choppy waters.

The 25-year-old managed to reach Nurhidayat in the swell, and the pair rode back to shore together on Casugay’s board.

“He thanked me and then said sorry,” Casugay said in Filipino. “I told him not to say sorry because that’s the way it is. There is no way of knowing what will happen.”


Vietnam gamers compete against Malaysians in the qualifying rounds of eSports. (AFP)

Emerging eSports

The SEA Games marked a first crack at the sporting mainstream for eSports which was a full medal event at an Olympic-recognized multi-sport competition for the first time.

Video gaming featured at last year’s Asian Games as a demonstration sport, but has been dropped for 2022.

Players from nine countries competed at a darkened arena in Manila over six days for medals in six disciplines.

The host nation won golds in team battle games Dota 2 and Mobile Legends. Home hero Caviar Napoleon Acampado came on top in the science fiction strategy game Starcraft II. Malaysia’s Yew Weng Kean won the card game Hearthstone. Tekken 7 and Arena of Valor were won by Thailand.


(From left) Singapore’s Joseph Schooling lost to teammate Darren Chua while Vietnam’s Hoang Quy Phuoc got the bronze in the men’s 100m freestyle. (Straits Times)

Schooling schooled

Singaporean swimmer Joseph Schooling famously beat his idol, US legend Michael Phelps, to win the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic gold in the 100m butterfly, but was worryingly out of form and out of shape just seven months from Tokyo 2020.

Fans questioned his bulky frame and Schooling, 24, admitted he needed to change things after winning only one individual gold.

“Of course, no one likes to lose, that’s why we do this,” he said after being beaten twice by younger teammates and having to settle for silver each time.

“This is a good reality check,” he said, pledging to consult his nutritionist to “fix this.”


President Rodrigo Duterte and His Majesty. Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah of  Brunei, watch the opening ceremony of the 30th Southeast Asian Games at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan on 30 November 2019. (PCOO)

Duterte dancing

President Rodrigo Duterte showed off some of his dancing skills at the opening ceremony as he grooved along to Philippines classic “Manila” by the band Hotdog.

The loudest cheer of the night came when Duterte, who sat alongside Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah, was seen on his feet and shaking his hips as the national athletes paraded around the indoor Philippine Arena.

Duterte had apologized the day before following a string of gaffes and chaotic organization which even sparked the hashtag #SeaGamesFail.


The Philippines’ Crisamuel Delfin competes in the Non-traditional Men’s Open Weapon final in the 30th SEA Games. (AFP)

Brief encounter

A Filipino martial artist almost gave up a chance of gold when he refused to don underwear beneath his loincloth.

Crisamuel Delfin eventually topped the podium in the arnis competition, but only after he was persuaded to sport a bikini-type thong.

“In the Ifugao Igorot culture, it’s an insult to the cultural traditions if you wear undergarments under the loincloth,” said Senator Miguel Zubiri, the president of the Philippines Arnis Federation.

Delfin’s coach argued with judges who insisted the fighter covered up in case the loincloth moved to expose parts not normally seen on live television.

“Eventually he agreed to wear it,” said the coach. “He was willing to be disqualified.”