Sepak takraw – “kick-volley” – open courts in Saint-Paul

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James Cam threw his body in the air and executed a back flip as he threw the ball over the net.

Other teammates either blew the ball out of their heads or lifted their feet high into the sunny skies to slam a serve in the corner of the pitch.

The guys were playing the Southeast Asian sport, sepak takraw, or “kick volleyball,” in which players can only use their feet, chest, knees and head – not their hands – to pass. and hit the ball.

The takraw athletes gave gravity-defying demonstrations at St. Paul’s Duluth and Case Recreation Center, where Minnesota’s first designated sepak takraw outdoor courts were dedicated on Saturday.

About 200 people attended the ceremony next to the new playing fields behind the recreation center.

“We are developing leagues and players, and when takraw becomes an Olympic sport, we want a team from St. Paul to bring home a medal,” said Lee Pao Xiong, president of Sepak Takraw USA, who partnered with to St. Paul Parks and Recreation, St. Paul Parks Conservancy and other organizations to fund and construct the five-lot $ 500,000 project.

A new generation of players now have a place to train and compete, which “connects the community and fosters friendship and sportsmanship,” Sen. Foung Hawj, DFL-St. Paul, said during the dedication.

Three of the courts are located at Duluth and Case Center and two at Marydale Park.

Takraw is popular with Minnesotans of South Asian descent who feel a cultural connection to the sport, which originated in Malaysia and Thailand over 500 years ago.

The players once woven strips of rattan into a ball. Today they use an elastic woven plastic ball.

Teams of three players pass and kick the ball over the net. “The ball is coming so fast,” said Jeremy Mirken, Sepak Takraw USA board member. “It’s one of the toughest sports in the world.

Mike Hahm, director of St. Paul Parks and Recreation, said it was clear there was a demand in the community and the recently opened takraw courts were extremely popular with young people.

“We are incredibly proud to have achieved this for the sepak takraw players, and it adds vitality to the city,” he said.

Experienced players and beginners alike are delighted with the new synthetic turf pitches. In the past, they had to create their own makeshift play areas in neighborhood parks.

“We hope the new courts help the sport gain momentum,” said True Cha, of Circle Pines. He said he enjoys the intensity of competition and that the sport requires skill, not size, to excel.

“The adrenaline is awesome when I juggle a ball in the air with my feet,” he said.

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