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2023 Asian Games: Day 11
10:58 JST, October 5, 2023
HANGZHOU, China (AP) — Strife-torn Myanmar won its first medal at the Asian Games in China on Wednesday, beating Indonesia to take home gold in men’s sepaktakraw, a popular regional sport also known as kick volleyball.
The Southeast Asian nation took two straight sets from Indonesia in the sport with similarities to volleyball, but played only with the feet, knees, head and chest.
Myanmar has been overwhelmed by violence since the military seized power in February 2021 from the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
The takeover triggered mass nonviolent protests nationwide and the military and police responded with deadly force. That gave rise to armed resistance, which has since turned into what U.N. experts have characterized as a civil war.
In comments after the sepaktakraw win, Burmese player Tun Thant Zin said the team was dedicating the gold medal “to our people back home.”
“This is our first gold medal in Hangzhou,” he said. “It has been very difficult for us to win but our coaching staff and the players have been very united and we deserved to win this.”
Sepaktakraw originated in rural Southeast Asia, with several countries laying claim to creating it. Its name is a literal translation, with “sepak” coming from the term used for kick in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, and “takraw” being the Thai word for the woven ball.
It’s known for its eye-catching acrobatic, overhead kicks and somersaulting leaps to the height of the net from the two teams of three players each. It was first incorporated into the Asian Games in 1990.
Myanmar beat Indonesia two straight in the best of three, 21-13 and 24-22.
The team had lost to Indonesia two days earlier, but coach Aung Cho Myint told reporters after the win that they were confident and prepared for the final.
“We studied their tactics,” he said.
Indonesia’s Rusdi Rusdi said his team was grateful for the silver, but had also felt well prepared to win gold.
“I thought both teams were equal,” he said. “Maybe it wasn’t meant for us today.”
In women’s sepaktakraw Indonesia’s team took the first set from Vietnam, but then lost two straight to have to settle for silver themselves.
“It’s always very difficult when we meet Indonesia, but we were confident in everything we did,” said gold medalist Thi Ngoc Huyen Nguyen.
“I’m proud of my team because we were carrying some injuries, but we kept fighting together.”
DRAGON BOAT RACES
In another regionally popular sport, China took gold in both men’s and women’s 200-meter dragon boat races.
The long, narrow boats decorated with Chinese dragon heads and tails are powered by teams of 12 paddlers, who row to the cadence of a drummer in the front and are guided by a steerer in the rear.
The sport was incorporated into the Asian Games in 2010.
The Chinese women’s team beat Indonesia to win gold, with Thailand taking bronze. The men’s team beat Thailand, with Indonesia taking bronze.
Host nation China is easily leading in medals, going over the 300 mark on Wednesday, more than half of them gold.
In Day 11 of the 15-day event China was already well past its total of the 287 mark it set in the last Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia.
It’s trailed by South Korea and Japan, each of which have fewer than half the overall number of medals that China does.
China opened the day with a gold in the 35-kilometer mixed walking race, finishing more than 5 minutes ahead of second place Japan. It was more than 34 minutes ahead of bronze-medalist India.
China’s Wang Qin, one of two men on the four-person team, said his friends and relatives had come in to watch the games in Hangzhou, and that the home crowd had been a boost for him and his teammates.
“From the beginning we saw so many spectators shouting and cheering for us, I felt so excited,” he said. “I felt like I had to fight for the medal no matter what and do my best to achieve the best result in this race.”
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