Our first game was men’s division two doubles against Sri Lanka. This was a nice intro match, since – with due respect to Sri Lanka – they weren’t likely to be a challenge and it gave us the chance to get some court time and settle our nerves while still getting a win under our belts to start the tournament.
The next match was much more challenging, particularly in the doubles format which the Australian team was no as familiar with. Our boys fought hard but were outclassed by Cambodia, who beat us in three hard-fought sets.
Due to a rather unfortunate draw hiccup, we then played Chinese Taipei at the ridiculous time of half past one in the morning. It was a must win for us after the loss to Cambodia, but unfortunately the long day behind us hadn’t left the players with enough in the tank. We still had a great game, but went down in straight sets again. We were out of contention for doubles medals, but we’d had a great time and learned a lot about the challenging doubles format.
The following morning we played Macau in a dead rubber, which we won in straight sets. It was a nice way to finish a disappointing section in a difficult pool grouping. The final was played between Cambodia and the United States, with gold going to the USA, silver to Cambodia and bronze to Chinese Taipei and Bangladesh.
The next day brought the regu (three on three) tournament, which was a much more familiar format for Team Australia and a slightly friendlier group draw as well. Our first regu match was against Macau and once again we won in straight sets.
Our next match was a big one against first seeds Germany. While on paper they were the stronger team, we were confident going in that we had the ability to pull off an upset. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be. While Australia played well and had flashes of brilliant play, the experience and consistency of the German team won through. In a frustrating result for Australia, we were beaten in straight sets.
We bounced back in a big way the following day with a confident straight sets win over Bangladesh to open, followed by a match against Nepal. On paper, and based on what we had seen during the rest of the tournament, Nepal should have been an easy victory for us. However, once again our inexperience at international level started to show, and Nepal played easily the best takraw they had played all week. What should have been a walkover ended up going to five sets, with the final set going right down the wire. We were able to put the last point away and claim the fifth set and the match, but the match could not have been any closer. Full credit to Nepal, who put up a strong and spirited fight.
The win put Australia through to the semis and a guaranteed bronze medal (The King’s Cup awards bronze medals to the losers of both semi-finals, with no need for a playoff. Isn’t that nice?), but we had plenty of fight left for the semi-final against Chinese Taipei.
The semi was certainly our most encouraging and enjoyable game of the tournament. C.Taipei were the favourites going in, but we were once again confident of staging an upset. It was another five set thriller, with the final set tipping C.Taipei’s way. Australia had to settle for bronze alongside Brazil. The final between Germany and Chinese Taipei was won by Germany.
So there you have it. Five days of nonstop takraw action, and a bronze medal for our efforts. It’s definitely been one of the craziest experiences I’ve had, and I’m looking forward to building up for the next tournament, whenever and wherever that turns out to be. In the meantime, it’s back to Australia and some sort of real life. Can’t wait for that either. Make of that what you will.
Garry with 2 Rs