Paralympic athletes will have a hard time competing in non-para events at the South East Asian (SEA) Games due to take place in Kuala Lumpur in August after the SEA Games Federation (SEAGF) announced on Wednesday they would be making no accommodations for para athletes in the event.
The reasoning behind this decision was revealed by the SEAGF president Tan Sri Tunku Imran Tuanku Ja’afar. He said that it was to avoid para athletes having an ‘advantage’ over able bodied athletes at the SEA Games.
This decision was prompted by a request from Singapore who were asking to have para archer, Syahidah Alim compete as part of their delegation. The SEA Games determined that it would be giving her too much of an advantage, presumably because they’d be seated, but typically in this scenario while the athlete is seated the target isn’t lowered, and as such there is no real ‘advantage’ to being in the chair. This also ignores the reality of life for Alim, who has cerebral palsy and as such sitting would only level the playing field not give her an ‘advantage’ and brings to mind recent controversies of para athletes seeking recognition on the bigger stage.
There is precedent for para athletes competing with Malaysians Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli and Abdul Latif Romly both competing in field events in previous SEA Games. But the need to change things for Alim was why her request was rejected, while both of those Malaysian athletes compete in the T/F20 classification, which is an intellectual disability classification, and as such did not need any change to the events.
“There’s no problem or issue if a para athlete wants to participate as long as they can compete with other abled bodied athletes with the basic conditions of the SEA Games,” said Tunku Imran, “The matter was discussed in the meeting and SEAGF did not approve the request. The ASEAN Para Games is only two weeks after the SEA Games, so the para athletes will have an opportunity to showcase their talent.”
With seemingly no appeal for Singapore and Alim, the archer will just have to wait until September, when Kuala Lumpur will also host the ASEAN Para Games, the para sport equivalent of the SEA Games.