Carlos "Caloy" Yulo, Philippines
Filipino gymnast Carlos "Caloy" Yulo. Carlos Yulo/Facebook


  • Cambodia issued new rule changes ahead of the 2023 Southeast Asian Games this May
  • Filipino sporting officials took offense to the sudden changes
  • Previous hosts of the SEA Games have also been criticized for willfully stacking the deck in their favor

The 2023 Southeast Asian Games is set to kick off on May 5 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, but the host nation has been receiving some backlash as to their head-scratching rules for some events–including gymnastics.

It was revealed in June 2022 that organizers have scrapped women's artistic gymnastics from the biennial event's games and has Gymnastics Association of the Philippines (GAP) president Cynthia Carrion frustrated with the ruling.

"We tried to convince the Cambodians to retain the WAG tournament, but they would not budge when the SEAG Gymnastic Zone held its meeting during the last Vietnam SEA Games," she was quoted to have said then.

"I and the other countries pleaded with the Cambodian hosts, to the extent that we were willing to supply them with equipment just to stage the women's artistic gymnastics events. Our appeal fell on deaf ears."

She again voiced out her concerns over the decision recently to the Philippine Star and lamented their lack of opportunity to win medals at the event, particularly in the case of world champion gymnast Carlos "Caloy" Yulo.

"In gymnastics, they said that even if Caloy wins seven gold, he can only receive two... And there's no WAG (women's artistic gymnastics) nor RG (rhythmic gymnastics), where can we win medals? What kind of games they are playing," an incensed Carrion stated.

Yulo, a seven-time gold medalist in multiple gymnastics events at the SEA Games, had his best outing at the 2021 biennial regional games when he took home five gold medals and two silvers, including wins in the following events: floor exercise, still rings, vault, horizontal bar and all-around.

Prior to Carrion's musings, Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Abraham Tolentino disclosed earlier in the week that "bodybuilding has been dropped" alongside Muay Thai, which has been apparently "merged with Kun Khmer"–Camboida's national martial arts event.

The SEA Games, which held its first-ever event in May 1958, is a unique sporting event since there is no official limit on the number of sports and events to be contested between the 11 nations competing.

While it would seem like a great way to explore ways to foster the competitive spirit and camaraderie in the region, the ability of the host nation to drop and/or introduce other sports or events has been a subject of debate.

This has allowed hosts to bend the rules in their favor and bring home more medals in events where they are strong at–leading to criticism of the event's credibility as a whole.

Tony Mariadass of Free Malaysia Today opined in 2020 about how the SEA Games has "gradually lost its glitz and is starting to look like a carnival" because of how hosts would stack the deck in their favor.

Despite the Philippines being the only nation to voice out their concerns as of late about the rule changes for the 2023 edition, the SEA Games is still set to feature the best athletes around the region.

Carlos "Caloy" Yulo, Philippines
Carlos "Caloy" Yulo during the 2019 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Stuttgart, Germany. Carlos Yulo/Facebook