VIPs competing at the 2017 SEA Games

A princess and the son of a prince will add a dash of royal glitz to the regional sporting realm when they compete at the 29th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur this month of August.

A princess and the son of a prince will add a dash of royal glitz to the regional sporting realm when they compete at the 29th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur this month of August.

VIPs competing at the 2017 SEA Games

Thailand's Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana and Faiq Bolkiah, son of Brunei Prince Jefri Bolkiah. (Photos: AFP/TODAY)

Past editions of the biennial multi-sport gala have also seen royalty square off with common people for honour and glory. In 2009, Bruneian Crown Prince Al-Muhtadee Billah contested both the singles and doubles nine-ball pool events.

And back in 1967, when it was still called the Southeast Asian Peninsula Games, the late revered King of Thailand Bhumibol Adulyadej and his eldest daughter Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya struck gold in sailing’s OK dinghy class.

This year’s instalment puts on display 38 sports, 404 events and over 4,000 athletes - with three Very Important People amongst them.

VIPs competing at the 2017 SEA Games

Thailand's Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana riding Prince Charming during the equestrian dressage team competition at the Asian Games in Incheon, Korea in September 2014. (Photo: Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji)

Thailand’s Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana is perhaps the most recognisable name here. The daughter of current monarch King Vajiralongkorn - and granddaughter of King Bhumibol - first came to prominence with a gold medal in badminton at the 2005 edition.

After switching to equestrian’s dressage event, the 30-year-old and her horse Prince Charming will be looking to top their performances at the 2013 SEA and 2014 Asian Games by claiming a medal in Kuala Lumpur.

Another athlete of royal descent is footballer Faiq Bolkiah, the 19-year-old son of Brunei Prince Jefri Bolkiah and nephew of Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah. Globally, he is better known as a gifted winger and future prospect for surprise 2016 English Premier League champions Leicester City.

Faiq once featured for the youth teams of Arsenal and Chelsea and netted a penalty at the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore. As captain of both senior and under-23 sides, he will again carry Brunei’s hopes of improving on their status as perennial footballing minnows.

Meanwhile hosts Malaysia will etch themselves a slice of history with Khairy Jamaluddin set to become the first Southeast Asian politician to compete at the Games. On top of his duties chairing the 2017 Games organising committee, the Youth and Sports Minister, 41, has also been selected for the seven-member equestrian polo team.

VIPs competing at the 2017 SEA Games

Khairy Jamaluddin pictured on March 25th, 2009. (Photo: AFP / Saeed Khan)

This drew flak from Johor crown prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, a skilled player himself, who last month challenged the minister to a match to determine who is “qualified to represent the country”.

Khairy simply said he would "let the sports association answer" and the national polo team responded by lauding his experience in the sport - captaining a local club and playing twice in the Malaysian Open - along with his "fitness, performance level and strong and disciplined character".

VNF/CNA

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