Last spotted in San Francisco, USA on March 28, 2003, 1:23 pm
Who is he? Where is he going? Where has he been? David Barrett / Quinthar
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Undoubtedly the craziest thing I saw in Malaysia was this wacky sport called Gasing. I just happened to wander through the fairgrounds during a big competition for the Asean 2002 games where... how can I explain it. Two teams of four in a cage with a clay floor. Each competitor, who might be aged anywhere from late teens to eighties, has in his hand a metal top wrapped tightly with a long string. One end of this string is wrapped in a complicated way around his hand and up his arm. A whistle blows and the first team steps up. In quick succession they charge up and, with every bit of force mustered, throw forward the top while simultaneously yanking back on the string with an attack cry like they're crushing a stack of bricks with their foreheads. Immediately after the first top is placed the second comes in right next to it until in a few seconds the four tops are spinning motionless in a tight huddle. The whistle blows again and the second team comes up. Mimicking the first team they slap down their tops with lightning speed, but this time directly atop the tops placed by the first team. Some go spinning and flying as a result, making good use of the protective cage. With the second team's placement complete, a whistle blows a third time and all eight competitors run out with their strings pulled taut between their hands and carefully manipulate the spinning tops, dragging them across painted circles on the smooth clay in some inscrutable pattern. Once satisfied they all stand back and a fourth whistle blows, and everyone stares at the spinning tops with great anticipation. As one starts to wobble, after an amazing length of time, the crowd works up in excitement, until it finally topples and the cheers come out in a frenzy. One team, apparently the one with all its tops still spinning, gathers them up in triumph while the other in dejection.

Apparently a few variants of the game exist, and this one included larger tops but no teams.

Copyright 2017 - David Barrett -