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Aung Myo Swe and Thant Zin Oo narrowly missed out on gold at the SEA Games in Singapore on Friday, beaten 2-1 in a thrilling final of the sepak takraw tournament by their Thai opponents, Pornchai Kaokaew and Pattarapong Yupadee.
Sepak takraw is a traditional Southeast Asian sport – somewhat like volleyball but using a small cane ball played without the use of hands. The event has gathered international interest in recent years as crowds invariably marvel at the agility and athleticism of its star players.
In teashops around Burma, fans of the sport gathered on Friday afternoon to cheer on their boys against the old enemy, Thailand. The Burmese team got off to a good start, holding their nerve as the first match went into a tiebreaker, and clinching it 23-21.
The Thai pair fought back in the second match, winning it decisively 21-14, and it was edge-of-the-seats tension going into the third and final round with gold medals at stake. It was a back-and-forth encounter with all four players executing overhead bicycle kicks and blocks with precision. Pornchai and Pattarapong managed to forge ahead as the Burmese tired, and the Thai team prevailed 21-16.
Aung Myo Swe and Thant Zin Oo took the podium for silver, Burma’s 22nd second-place finish to date in the games.
The national team appears to have hit a roadblock and has been stuck on 11 golds since Wednesday. Hosts Singapore leads the medals tally with 70 gold medals, closely followed by Thailand on 69 and Vietnam on 61.