2015 Asean Para Games

Asean Para Games: Dominant Thailand regain top spot

The Thai celebral palsy football team celebrating their gold medal win on Dec 9.
The Thai celebral palsy football team celebrating their gold medal win on Dec 9.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

Six days ago, Thai runner Pranaya Sekratok got her country off to the best possible start by winning the women's 800m T53/54 final, the first gold medal won at the Asean Para Games.

Fittingly, it was the Thai contingent who rounded up the event yesterday as they conjured a scintillating 3-0 win over Myanmar in the cerebral palsy football final.

With that, the regional kingpins asserted their supremacy in the para sports arena once more as they topped the medal standings after seven days of action.

The Thais, who have traditionally won the most golds at the meet, surrendered top spot to Indonesia at last year's edition. They had finished second, three golds shy of Indonesia's haul of 99 golds.

This time, Thailand finished clear winners with 95 golds, 76 silvers and 79 bronzes, ahead of Indonesia (81-74-63).

Yesterday, Thailand National Paralympic Committee secretary-general Osoth Bhavilai said: "Being first in South-east Asia was always our target, and I'm happy that we did it. The level of competition is getting higher, so I'm very happy for the athletes."

He praised the athletics team, who delivered 30 golds.

Thailand's Kewalin Wannaruemon, a blind runner who won all three of her events in Games record times, said: "I knew I can do this, and I'm happy to help contribute to Thailand's overall medal haul. We've worked very hard for this."

Indonesia chef de mission Faisal Abdullah, meanwhile, is looking forward to the next Games in 2017.

He said: "We hope to regain top position in 2017. We have to address some issues and send athletes abroad for training where necessary."

Malaysia, host of the next Games in 2017, also enjoyed a good outing in Singapore, finishing third overall with 52 golds, 58 silvers and 37 bronzes.

Chef de mission Ang Kean Koo said: "It's good that we achieved both our targets, which were to hit 50 golds and to finish third.

"But this is only the beginning for us. We have to start focusing on 2017.

"We want to win more gold medals for our country, and if possible, we want to be the overall champions.

"We will meet the national federations in the next two weeks to discuss which sports to focus on. Some of the sports we have identified are swimming and some athletics events."

The Malaysians opened a Paralympic Sports Centre in Kuala Lumpur last March, and Ang is hopeful the facility, reportedly the largest in South-east Asia, will help them top the medal table.

He also praised Singapore's hosting of the Games, highlighting the accessibility of venues and friendliness of volunteers.

Ang said: "It's going to be a challenge but we will try to do better."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 10, 2015, with the headline 'Dominant Thailand regain top spot'. Print Edition | Subscribe