Caelan Reilly goes vertical.
Brad Halasz/the Gauntlet

Malaysia's sepak takraw is just for kicks

Fringe sport holds Canadian Championships at Volleydome

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Still unsure if it's harder to play or pronounce, several spectators flocked to the Volleydome to check out the sport of sepak takraw as the Canadian Open was held Aug. 29-31.

The rules are similar to volleyball; you have to hit the takraw (which is a cantaloupe sized woven plastic ball) no more than three times before sending it over the net. The only catch is you cannot use your hands or arms.

With three to a team, the game is fast paced and offers room for intense roundhouse-like kicks similar to a spike in volleyball.

Caelan Reilly, who made the trip from Regina and played on the Saskatchewan men's team, who lost to Malaysia three times over the weekend in the international pool of the tournament, but managed a gold medal in the Canadian pool.

"It's a lot of fun," he said, explaining that his eight years of soccer and badminton playing helped him make the transition to the fringe sport. "I saw it being played at a cultural festival in Saskatchewan and I said, 'Man, this is the sport for me.'"

This year marks the first time the championships were held in Calgary and Reilly says that exposing the sport to other areas helps it grow.

"In Canada it's still a new sport, but the Takraw office is located in Regina so there's a lot of promoting going on at schools in that area," he said. "This is a nice change towards our informal Canadian opens we used to have."

Rick Engel, President of the Sepak Takraw Association of Canada said the event was a success and plans to hold it in Calgary again next year.

"We're looking forward to growing the sport outside of Regina," he said.

Engel first learned about the sport almost 20 years ago when he was teaching English in Asia and toured the south during his summer holidays.

Since then, Engel has helped educate schools in Saskatchewan and across the country about the sport.

He has also pushed for equipment in schools and even went so far as to design and manufacture a shoe that caters to the sport.

"I saw it and said, 'Wow, what a sport. [Canadians] could do this,'" he said. "And we're taller too."