Thursday, December 14, 2006

Asian Games - Sepaktakraw

Okay, before the Asian Games started I had never even heard of sepaktakraw but it sounded interesting so I bought some tickets. In truth I went to any sport at the Asian Games that I had never heard of (kabbadi was another) but I liked the idea of sepaktakraw - volleyball but you can't use your hands. Sounded weird, but the game is popular in Thailand, Malaysia and other parts of Southeast Asia and apparantly tough to play.

Well, it was one of the best games I saw at the Asian Games!

While it is a lot like volleyball the net is lower, about 5 and a half feet. This allows players to set up the ball for spiking much like volleyball only using your feet instead of your hands. The flexibility and atheltic skill you need to be a good sepaktakraw player is astounding. Men were regularly doing full bicycle kicks to spike the ball but instead of landing on their back, like in soccer, they were landing on their feet! You'd have to though, the court surface is hard floor like in volleyball so if you landed on your back you were in for a world of hurt.

Watching players stretch out before the match you essentially have to be flexible enough to do the splits all the way to the floor. I saw one guy doing that and his coach was pushing on his back so that his chest was fully on the floor. Ouch! It looked painful just to watch. But that kind of flexibility is needed to do moves like spiking and blocking.

In the end I watched Vietnam get the gold in women's doubles, and Thailand won the men's. Myanmar (Burma) won silver in both.

Rating 9/10: if you get a chance to watch this sport on TV definately check it out. You'll go "whoa!" the first time you see someone spike the ball.

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