MYANMAR - The vibrant cheering from the home crowd that filled almost half of the 3000-seat Zayar Thiri Indoor Stadium on the outskirts of Myanmar's new capital, Naypyitaw, reverberated around the venue after Kyaw Naing Thun defeated Malaysia's Ahmad Shahril in the men's 60-65 kilogram category on Sunday.
Kyaw Naing Thun then hugged his two coaches, who had attentively watched the game from the side of the mat, before making a victory lap around the stadium with Myanmar's flag covering his body.
It was the host's third gold medal in pencak silat, Indonesia's traditional martial art.
The Myanmar federation employs Indonesia's Achmad Radhiansyah as its team's head coach, and Muhammad Asyhary and Edi Rusmawan Edeng Mulyadi as assistant coaches.
It all began two years ago after the 26th edition of the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games was held in Jakarta and Palembang, South Sumatra.
Achmad Radhiansyah was asked by the Interstate Pencak Silat Association (Persilat) to train Myanmar's athletes.
"We were sent here by Persilat because Myanmar was lacking a coach for this sport. Radhiansyah arrived two years ago, followed by me a year later and then Edi, who arrived here in March," Asyhary said.
He revealed that it was quite a challenge for them to familiarize the people in Myanmar with the full-body contact sport pencak silat; most local people were more familiar with Muay Thai.
"We were lacking support from the sports minister. Pencak silat was underestimated but, thank God, with today's result of three gold, two silver and three bronze, they can see that this once alien sport is worth their support," Asyhary said.
According to Asyhary, Myanmar's greatest achievement before today had been a silver medal at the SEA Games.
"In this 27th edition, they [Myanmar's pencak silt athletes] have shown their best and, hopefully, this achievement can help silat to be better respected here," he said.
In its mission to raise awareness about pencak silt among more people, Persilat has sent a number of coaches to countries including Vietnam, which is currently one of the toughest contenders, Myanmar and Brunei Darussalam.
According to Edi, pencak silat has also spread to several countries in Europe. "We hold a biennial world championship. In the maiden event in Jakarta in 1992, the pencak silat world championship featured athletes from 20 countries around the world," he said.
One of the obvious results of the recent promotion of pencak silat was that the sport was not one of those eliminated from the Myanmar SEA Games.
Myanmar's SEA Games features 33 sports as opposed to the 44 held in Indonesia in 2011.