SINGAPORE - The long wait for competition is over and it's finally show time for Singapore's top silat exponents at the South-east Asia (SEA) Pencak Silat Championships at the OCBC Arena Hall One from Friday to Sunday (Feb 25-27).
Having pulled off hosting the regional competition during the pandemic, Singapore Silat Federation chief executive Sheik Alau'ddin wants his fighters to prove that they are worthy of a ticket to the Hanoi SEA Games in May.
The Republic's 30 silat exponents will be staking their claim for a Games spot when they pit themselves against 61 of their counterparts from Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand this week.
Sheik said in a press conference on Wednesday (Feb 23): "With the SEA Games coming up in Vietnam in May, it's just right that we host the South-east Asia Championships as a prelude to the Games, as well as the World Championships in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
"It's more on the performance than just the results we are looking at. The performance will show if the athletes have the fire in them, if they are hungry to be the first choice to represent Singapore in the SEA Games."
Sheik added that they would review the fighters' performance after the competition and submit a final list of exponents to the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) to consider for SEA Games inclusion when its appeals committee meets in early March.
The SEA Championships, which is the first major silat meet in Singapore since the World Championships in December 2018, will see a change in rules in the tanding (match) category passed last February and Sheik believes that the Championships "will make for a level playing field for all the athletes".
The new rules, which reflect the development of martial arts around the world, allow exponents more leniency in tugging at the opponents' uniforms as they look to land punches and kicks to score points. There are also fewer stoppages in each match.
Three-time world champion Sheik Farhan, who has already earned SNOC's nod for the Hanoi Games, believes that the new rules will be beneficial for exponents who are less "artistic", but all of them will need to adapt to the changes.
"These changes are not so major that you will lose your advantage, but at the same time not too small that they can be ignored. The main components of silat remain, so the South-east Asia Championships will show how us elite athletes adapt," he said.
The 24-year-old, who competes in the Class J (90-95kg) category, also expressed relief to be able to pit himself against regional rivals again, saying: "For me, this competition is important to see where I am and what I need to work on."
Besides Farhan, the other national silat exponents to watch include Hazim Yusli, who was named Sportsboy of the Year in 2019 after winning the Class B (50-55kg) world title in 2018 but has moved to Class C (55-60kg), and Nurul Suhaila Mohd Saiful, who also won her Class D (60-65kg) world title in 2018.
Strict protocols are in place at the SEA Championships, with all personnel involved having to undergo daily testing. Athletes and officials will have to remain in a competition "bubble", moving only between assigned hotels, training and match venues.
The event is open only to invited guests. It will be split into two sessions - afternoon and evening - on each of the three days and capped at a maximum of 300 per session.