Thailand’s Sepak Takraw athletes pose for photographers after winning the men’s and women’s team events at the 2018 Asian Games in Palembang on Wednesday. (AFP photo)
The Thai coach insisted sepak takraw deserved their place at the Asian Games as his dominant team won two more gold medals in the Southeast Asian sport on Wednesday.
Sepak takraw is a form of volleyball played with the feet, requiring gravity-defying bicycle kicks to shoot a rattan ball at lightning speed across a net.
It is one of a number of regional sports battling to be included in the upcoming Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, but Kamol Tankimhong said he was “pretty confident” he would get the green light.
“Every year a strong team joins us and every country performs better and better,” he said, above the cheers and drums of the traveling Thai supporters.
“It’s such an exciting sport to watch, so we should create an academy, teach it more and spread the sport.”
Thailand are the undisputed champions of the sport, winning 22 of the 33 gold medals at previous Asian Games since their first inclusion in 1990.
True to form, the country’s men beat longtime rivals Malaysia 2-0 in the team final on Wednesday, with Thailand also winning the women’s competition.
The full program of events to be included in the next Asian Games in 2022 has not yet been confirmed. The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) has so far only ratified the 33 sports competing at Tokyo 2020.
Other medal-winning sports could include those competing at the 2024 Paris Olympics, as well as nominations from the five OCA regions and two more from host China.
Thai star player Siriwat Sakha, 29 – a giant among his compatriots at 1.86m (6ft 1in) – said athleticism, thrills and the sport’s long history mean he shouldn’t to be abandoned.
He dared to go even further, saying that having sepak takraw compete in the Olympics one day was one of his “biggest dreams”.