ASIAD sepak takraw: Women’s team excel to win first gold medal

The Vietnamese women’s sepak takraw team broke a jinx, winning their first gold medal, after coming short up at the 2002 Busan Games, the 2005 world championship and the 2005 Southeast Asian Games, as they beat their bitter rivals, Thailand, 2-1 in an epic final of the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, Qatar, just hours earlier.

The Vietnamese team started the final as underdogs to their Thai rivals, to whom the lost in the finals of the 2002 Asian Games in Busan, the Republic of Korea, the 2005 world championship in Bangkok, Thailand, and the 2005 Southeast Asian Games in the Philippines.  

The first Vietnamese trio, Luu Thi Thanh, Nguyen Hai Thao and Nguyen Thi Bich Thuy, looked like to be outclassed by their Thai opponents, as they lost seven points in a row as the first set of the first regu started. They then saved a set point, trailing 12-20, before conceded 21-13.

They also started their point chase in the second set and caught up with the Thai trio, levelling 6-6. Encouraging by their supporters and teammates, the Vietnamese trio took a 10-7 lead, then 17-11, before winning 21-14.

They took the first regu with a 15-11 victory in tie-break. The Vietnamese players fought for every point to lead 8-4. However, they slipped four points in a row, as the Thai fought back to level the score, 11-11. Luu Thi Thanh, Hai Thao and Bich Thuy calmly finished the tie-break with a 15-11 victory.  

restored order by levelling the final at 1-1. Their trio Areeat Takan, Tidawan Daosakul and Phutsadi Suancharun outplayed trio Nguyen Duc Thu Hien, Nguyen Thi Hoa and Le Thi Hanh from Vietnam and Thais won 21-12, 21-15. Daosakul was particularly athletic with some spectacular overhead spikes. It was fitting that she got the match point in the second regu with a trademark block with her back.

Vietnamese trio Nguyen Thinh Thu Ba, Nguyen Thi Thuy An, Nguyen Bach Van looked very nervous as they began their deciding regu against Anchalee Suvanmajo, Payom Srihongsa, and Chotika Boonthong. Tekong Thuy An, in particular, failed to overcome a heavy pressure as she committed seven faults while serving in the first set. As a result, the Vietnamese lost 21-12 quickly.

After a short break, receiving guidelines and encouragement from coach Ha Tung Lap and great support from their teammates, who were chanting “An, try your best!” the Vietnamese trio fought back hard in the second set, as they chased for points with the Thais to 8-8 before taking a 9-8 lead. They then extended their lead to 18-11 before winning 21-15, forcing a decider.

In the deciding set, the Vietnamese side, after being boosted by a leveller in the second set, started brightly and took a 12-4 lead. However, they let the Thai side won six points in a row, to narrow the gap to 12-10. However, Thuy An, who recovered from nervousness, had the last laugh with her service too difficult for the Thai side to return, sealing their 2-1 victory.

To reach the final, the Vietnamese team beat Japan 3-0 and China 2-1 in the group stage, and the Republic of Korea 3-0 in the semi-finals.

The Vietnamese sports delegation have won their first gold medal so far at the 15th Asian Games, after coming short in weightlifting, women’s 10 metre running target rifle, and men’s rapid chess.

They have moved up to the 11th spot in the medal tally with o­ne gold, three silver and three bronze medals.

Nhan Dan