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Singapore wins first SEA Games e-sports gold medal after controversial Valorant final; Indonesia named joint champions

Singapore wins first SEA Games e-sports gold medal after controversial Valorant final; Indonesia named joint champions

Teams from Singapore and Indonesia stand on stage at the Olympia Mall in Phnom Penh ahead of the Valorant grand final at the 2023 SEA Games. (Screengrab: YouTube/Valorant - Philippines)

SINGAPORE: Singapore claimed its first SEA Games e-sports gold medal on Thursday (May 11) after a controversial Valorant grand final in Phnom Penh.

Indonesia had initially forfeited the final to protest a decision made by tournament officials, handing the gold to Singapore. However, the organisers later awarded the two teams joint gold following a review.

The dispute began on Wednesday when Indonesia's team complained to officials that the Singapore side had used a bug in the tactical first-person shooter to gain an unfair advantage.

The bug involved an in-game camera that allowed Singapore's players to track their opponents' movements, which Indonesia said was not allowed under the rules.

Singapore disputed that the tactic was not permitted, leading to players and officials wrangling over the rules well into the early hours of Thursday morning.

The match was paused with Singapore leading 10-4 in game two of the best-of-three final, having already won game one.

Singapore Esports Association spokesperson Janet Su told CNA that Indonesia had complained about the use of bugs in rounds 9 and 14 of game two, but neither bug was mentioned in the event's rulebook.

The second bug did, however, fall into a "grey area", and officials decided to roll back the match to round 14 with Singapore leading 9-4.

Singapore accepted this decision. However, Indonesia wanted the match to be rolled back to round 9, where the camera bug was used, with the score at 5-3, Su said.

Indonesia appealed the decision, and the jury of appeal eventually sent out a new ruling at 4am on Thursday. It decided to roll back the match to round 11 with the score at 5-5.

But when play looked set to finally resume at 8am, Indonesia said they would forfeit the match. According to AFP, Indonesia said it was unfair that the rules had not been made clear.

Singapore's team of Yeoh Chun Ting, Ingram Tan, Marcus Tan, Rodman Yap, Tidus Goh and Ayrton Soh were therefore awarded the gold medal. Then came the decision to award both teams joint gold.

Su said that the SEA Games organising committee had offered the two teams a joint gold medal before the medal ceremony, and Singapore agreed to this option "out of sportsmanship".

A Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) spokesperson said in a statement: "We are pleased to win Singapore's first gold medal in e-sports, and would like to commend our Valorant team on a solid performance.

"We accept the organiser's decision on awarding joint gold medals to both Singapore and Indonesia, and offer our congratulations to our friends at Komite Olimpiade Indonesia (Indonesian Olympic Committee)."

Indonesia head coach Yohannes Paraloan Siagian told AFP that the dispute arose "from a lot of miscommunication". 

"We have nothing against our opponents," he added.

"It was more that we felt that the way this event was being run did not make for a fair, balanced playing field."

Explaining the joint gold, the coach said he thought the SEA Games organisers had opted for a solution "that caused the least amount of distress all round".

Frengky Ong, secretary general of the Esports Federation of Indonesia, said: "We accepted the joint-golds decision by considering our commitment to respect the brotherhood between countries which SEA Games upholds strongly."

According to AFP, when the medals were awarded - along with joint bronzes for the Philippines and Vietnam - the Singapore players were not on the podium as they had flown back home.

Before the final decision was made, Singapore's Tidus Goh, also known as Styron, said on Twitter that he was receiving threats on social media.

He said the team had "read the rules" and obeyed every decision, but were "still labeled cheaters".

"What a way to take away every honour the medal carries," Goh added.

Singapore had made it to the final after finishing third in the group stage of the tournament and beating Vietnam in the semi-final.

E-sports was introduced at the SEA Games in 2019, and Singapore's best results previously had been runner-up finishes by Thomas Kopankiewicz in Starcraft II in 2019 and the team of Bay Hui Qing, Chua Yun Qin, Jeslyn Kweh, Jolene Poh, Valerie Seng, Wong Ming Yan and Xiang Shasha in women's League of Legends: Wild Rift last year.

This is the first edition of the SEA Games to feature Valorant.

CNA has contacted the organisers for more information.

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Source: CNA/AFP/kg(gr)


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