Ice hockey, ice skating for 2017?

Winter sports may feature in Malaysia Games after federation gives the nod

No snow is likely to fall and temperatures will not drop below zero but two winter sports could be contested for the first time at the 2017 SEA Games in Malaysia.

This, after ice hockey and ice skating were approved yesterday as official Games sports by the South East Asian Games Federation (SEAGF) at a council meeting.

The National Olympic Committees (NOCs) from 11 South-east Asian countries met over two days at the Raffles City Convention Centre to discuss and decide on issues related to the Games.

Sieh Kok Chi, secretary-general of the Malaysian NOC, said ice hockey and ice skating "will definitely be included" in 2017 if at least four countries participate.

"The reason (for lobbying the two sports) is we've constructed three big ice-skating rinks in Kuala Lumpur, and we've taken part in the Asian Games and on an international level," he added.

Ice hockey, ice skating and cricket were added to the existing list of 35 Category 2 sports.

Category 1 sports - aquatics and athletics - are must-haves.

"It's a historic moment," said president of the Singapore Ice Skating Association Sonja Chong. "(Ice skating) is growing in the region. It's a timely inclusion."

Indonesian martial art tarung derajat and bridge were also additions to the list of approved Games sports in Category 3, which contains mostly traditional sports such as silat.

The inclusion of the winter sports was not an overnight decision. Chris Chan, secretary general of the Singapore National Olympic Council, said the idea came up in April at a congress it organised.

"We realised we've never had winter sports at the SEA Games even though we have athletes competing at the Winter Olympic Games and other international competitions," he said.

"So we thought maybe we can include a few winter sports that are more popular in the region, and ice hockey and ice skating were the obvious choices."

In 2013, Singapore hosted the inaugural International Skating Union World Development Trophy for short-track ice skating at The Rink at JCube, the only Olympic-sized ice rink here.

In March, the Singapore men's team finished second in the International Ice Hockey Federation Challenge Cup of Asia in Kuwait.

This week's meeting also saw Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who was the SNOC president from 1998 to 2014, appointed honorary life president of SEAGF.

Brunei also announced it would be relinquishing its host status for the 2019 edition, saying that it is not ready. The Philippines has expressed interest in taking over.

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