At the Games

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 November, 2010, 12:00am

A 98-year-old kung fu master tied the knot with a 43-year-old woman in Shenzhen, it was reported this week. The bride was a student of his. The story didn't say whether he had been married before, or what Fang Taishan's secret to longevity was. Maybe it is the ancient Shaolin martial art as Fang came to Guangdong from Thailand when he was nine to learn.

The sport of kabaddi will also keep you going for 100 years, according to the coach of the Indian team Balwan Singh.

Singh says the secret to good health, long life and happiness is to take up this obscure sport where you run around chanting 'kabaddi, kabaddi, kabaddi' while holding your breath.

'Look at me, I'm 50 years old and I can hold my breath for three minutes,' said the sprightly Singh. 'You can live for 100 years playing kabaddi.'

For the uninitiated, the sport involves holding hands and raiding your opponents' territory shouting, 'kabaddi, kabaddi'.

Singh says chanting kabaddi is good for 'your internal organs, your heart and lungs will become strong'. He adds that you will never get sick. His belief is supported by the Japanese. Three team members are monks while five others graduated from a Zen Buddhist institute.

'Training in kabaddi makes our bodies stronger and healthier,' Japan team leader Kokei Ito said.

It hasn't convinced China. The hosts were represented in all 42 sports except kabaddi. Probably the Chinese don't like to hold hands. And if they want to stay healthy and strong, they can take up wushu.

These two sports are among seven in danger of being excluded from the next Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea. The others are baseball, softball, bowling (tenpin), sepak takraw and squash as the Olympic Council of Asia is determined to limit the number of sports to 35.

The biggest worry for Hong Kong is that squash might face the chop. Squash has traditionally been a reservoir of medals. Ever since the sport was first introduced at the 1998 Bangkok Games, Rebecca Chiu Wing-yin and company have contributed towards medal tallies.

On Thursday, Chiu played her last match at the Asian Games. Marriage and age has caught up with her and she will be retiring from the sport. Sadly she wasn't able to leave on a high with Malaysia defeating Hong Kong for the team gold. But at least she won a silver and kept her track record of winning a medal at every Games alive.

But what will happen in four years? If the Koreans are forced into a corner, it is most likely they will look at squash as a sport to drop.

Squash is not all that popular in South Korea. And if push comes to shove, squash and wushu could face the exit simply because from the other five, baseball, softball and tenpin bowling are popular in Seoul. Kabaddi and sepak takraw are all but guaranteed a place as the OCA wants to include sports from every region in Asia. Kabaddi covers South Asia, while sepak takraw is native to Southeast Asia.

Hong Kong officials will have to ensure squash does not get the flick and lobby for its inclusion. The sport failed to win an Olympic berth last year - rugby and golf getting the nod from IOC members - and now it faces an Asian Games exit.

The biggest problem with squash has always been that it doesn't really come across well as a television sport. And this counts in this day of selling TV rights, one reason why cricket has such a powerful sway with the OCA.

So by all accounts, squash has a short life span at these Games. Maybe aspiring young athletes might be better off learning to hold hands and their breath.