INCHEON (AFP) – Thailand won a fifth successive Asian Games sepak takraw gold medal on Sunday, then wished the rest of the world would take their spectacular niche sport seriously.
The favourites silenced largely South Korean supporters at the jam-packed 5,500-capacity Bucheon gymnasium with a 2-0 win over the Games hosts to retain the title they have won since 1998.
The victory followed gold medal success for the Thai women’s team, who outclassed Myanmar 2-0 in the final of the sport that came out of Southeast Asia and is striving to win converts.
It is a mix of football, martial arts and volleyball except that players are not allowed to use their hands to control the rattan ball.
Bicycle kicks are commonplace as players juggle the ball with feet, knees, chest and head before sending it across a volleyball-style net.
Thailand were so dominant in both finals that the action ended 90 minutes before the scheduled victory ceremony, by which time the stands had emptied — except for a bunch of boisterous Thai supporters.
“This was not an easy match as the scores may suggest because the Koreans were very good,” said Thai coach Kamol Tankimhong. “We had to fight hard as if we were fighting for our lives.”
Jubilant players celebrated by dancing on court, lifted Kamol and other officials in the air, before bowing towards their fans to thank them for their support.
Suriyan Peachan, a 40-year-old veteran of all five gold medal-winning teams, said the title confirmed his nation’s status as the seemingly unbeatable force in sepak takraw.