Tuesday, 23 September 2014

2014 Asian Games: The High Kicks Of Sepak Takraw

           (My Asian Games ticket and the wrongly spelled 
            welcome banner at the Bucheon Gymnasium)

The first stop of our trip to the Asian Games sponsored by the Korea Tourism Organization was at Bucheon Gymnasium. I haven't been to this part of Gyeonggi Province. So, a trip to this city was a welcome idea, especially if it was to watch an event of the 2014 Asian Games.

            (Students waiting to enter the Bucheon Gymnasium)
                     (Lining up to buy tickets for the event)

We got to the venue before the games started, and since this sport isn't that popular, I saw a lot of empty seats in the gymnasium. There wasn't much going on around the gymnasium either. I was expecting some Asian Games fun booths to lighten up the atmosphere of this sleepy residential neighborhood. Other than watching the matches inside, there wasn't much else to do outside. 

The crowd watching the sepak takraw elimination rounds mainly consisted of families and students, who I think lived around the area.

Sepak takraw is a sport that originated in Southeast Asia that involves a rattan ball that is kicked by the player over a net. I have never played it, but as I watched it played by teams from Japan, Korea, Nepal and Singapore that afternoon, I realized this sport requires a lot of agility, flexibility and lightness to fly, kick, defend and anticipate where that rattan ball was heading to.

The object of the game is to kick the rattan ball into the court of your opponent, much like volleyball, but using one's legs and everything else, except hands and arms. If the ball drops into your opponent's court, it's a point for you. Although it sounds easy, the ball should not touch your court, too, and only your feet, knees, back, head and chest should touch the rattan ball during the game. If your arms or hands touch the ball, it's a foul. 

'Sepak' is a Malay word that means 'to kick', and 'takraw' is a Thai word that means 'rattan ball'.

Interestingly, the Filipino word 'sipa' also means 'to kick', and Sipa was a game I used to play with friends and classmates when I was a kid using a lead washer that was usually covered and tailed with a plastic candy wrapper. We would kick the lead washer using the inward motion of our right leg (if you're right-handed) and do it the most number of times without dropping the lead washer, and I was very good at it. I guess if I trained for sepak takraw, I would have ended at the Asian Games, too. Ha-ha-ha! 

Inside the gymnasium, the home crowd loudly cheered for the Korean teams, but also applauded by efforts of the visitors. Although the matches didn't last that long as the team that reached 21 points with a difference of 2 was given a set, and the victor should win 2 out of 3 sets. 

And as I was admiring the flexibility and speed of these athletes, I took some photographs from my seat inside the section assigned for Asian Games athletes. Oops! I guess the Korean lady manning the area allowed me to sit in that section because she thought that I, too, was an athlete at the Asian Games. Ha-ha-ha! I was flattered.  Perhaps, the red, white and blue Filipinas t-shirt (bought from Collezione at Greenbelt 5 in Makati City, Philippines) made me look the part.

Here are some photographs of the high kicks, stunts, twists and flexibility of the teams that day:

       (Korea vs. Singapore: the Singapore team member 
                    tries to block the ball with his back)
        (Korea vs. Japan: a Japanese team member doing 
     a split in the air to kick the ball into the opponent's court)

    (Korea vs. Singapore: opposing teams both in mid-air for a kick)

(Some Korean athletes watching the games)

                             (My favorite shot of the day: 
           A player from Team Korea flies next to the net almost 
           horizontally with one leg about to kick the ball and with                                his back against the ground. Amazing!)

Good luck to the remaining teams for rest of the Games!

Korea Tourism Organization's K-Performance Supporters!
                             (Photo courtesy of KTO)

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