ISLAMABAD (AP) — India found a way to ensure the Chinese juggernaut didn’t dominate every sport at the Asian Games — the introduction of kabaddi saw to that.
The Indian team has won all six men’s gold medals since the regional sport was introduced, and added the first women’s title, too, at Guangzhou in 2010.
Southeast Asian countries found their own niche sport too, with sepak takraw contested at the quadrennial event since 1990. Malaysia collected the first gold medals, but Thailand has dominated since.
These esoteric events will be on the schedule of 42 sports to be contested at the Asian Games starting next week at Incheon, South Korea, where more than 10,000 athletes from across the region will be competing.
China and Japan tend to dominate in track and field and swimming — among the 28 Olympic sports on the program at Incheon — while judo, karate and taekwondo have become part of the sporting mainstream. But clearly there’s something for everyone at the Asian Games.
Kabaddi originated in northern India, so it’s no surprise that the Indians have dominated the gold medals. Bangladesh and Pakistan shared around the silver or bronze medals in all previous Asiads until Iran reached the final at Guangzhou four years ago.
Kabaddi players don’t tend to get much prominence in their own countries — where cricket is the dominant sport — and events like the Asian Games give them a chance to shine.
The ancient sport involves a player raiding his opponent’s court and, after touching a defender, trying to return to his side of the court without being caught — all the while chanting “kabaddi, kabaddi, kabaddi.”
At Guangzhou, only seven countries competed in kabaddi. Incheon will feature an eight-team competition — China, which regularly tops the medal standings at the Asian Games — didn’t enter a team in the kabaddi competition.
Sepak takraw is a cross between volleyball and football. Played with a rattan ball, players to use their feet, knee, chest and head to lob the ball back and forth across a high net.
The sport, which dates back to the 15th century, is popular across Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar and the Philippines.
In Incheon, 10 nations will compete in the men’s sepak takraw, with eight countries fielding athletes in the women’s competition.