Asean Para Games: Thailand lead the way in medal tally but wary of Indonesia

Thailand's Wannaruemon Kewalin running alongside her guide as she is visually impaired. The 21-year-old broke the Games record in the women's 100m T11 event.
Thailand's Wannaruemon Kewalin running alongside her guide as she is visually impaired. The 21-year-old broke the Games record in the women's 100m T11 event.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
Thailand's Saichon Konjen winning the men's 100m T54 (wheelchair) final in a Games record time of 14.33sec. The 32-year-old is also the favourite to win the 200m and 400m races.
Thailand's Saichon Konjen winning the men's 100m T54 (wheelchair) final in a Games record time of 14.33sec. The 32-year-old is also the favourite to win the 200m and 400m races.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

Thailand set the pace and won with grace during the opening day of athletics action.

The kingdom's athletes delivered six gold, eight silver and six bronze medals - plus two Games records - at the National Stadium yesterday.

But, while they were pumping their fists and flashing toothy grins at their respective medal ceremonies, Thailand's para-sports chief was not entirely satisfied with their first-day outing.

Rating his athletes a "7.5 out of 10", Chutinant Bhirombhakdi was worried that Indonesia - who bagged six gold, six silver and two bronze medals - had caught up in track and field.

"Our women performed as expected but the men were a bit disappointing," the Paralympic Committee of Thailand president told The Straits Times. "Maybe our men are older and are reaching their peak, while Indonesia and Vietnam have more youngsters coming through."

At last year's edition, the Thais clinched 41 golds - ahead of Malaysia's 36.

Yesterday, wheelchair racer Pranaya Sekratok got her nation off to a flying start by winning the women's 800m T53/54 final in a time of 2min 9.29 sec.

It was the first gold won at the Dec 3-9 Games in Singapore.

"Very happy, very fast, very good," the 39-year-old said in halting English, flashing a thumbs-up.

The Indonesians stormed back with victories in the men's javelin throw (F44 - amputees), men's long jump (F45/46/47 - amputees) and the men's 100m (T11 - visually impaired).

But it was Thailand's golden boy who stole the show in the evening's finale.

Five-time Paralympic silver medallist Saichon Konjen blitzed the competition in a Games record time of 14.33sec to win the men's 100m T54 (wheelchair) final.

"He has everything - mental strength, experience, physicality," Chutinant said of the 32-year-old, who is also the favourite in the upcoming 200m and 400m races.

"Watch out for him at the Rio Paralympics, he's going to get the gold for us."

There were creditable showings from the hosts to liven up the crowd of around 300. Racing alongside Konjen, Singapore's Firdaus Nordin finished eighth in a season-best time of 16.60sec, cheered on by 14 family members in the stands.

The 27-year-old StarHub executive said: "It was a bad start as I was worried about false-starting.

"But there's progress, and I look forward to better results in my other events."

Jack Lai, the day's oldest competitor at 58, finished sixth in the men's 800m T52/53 final, which was won by Thai Paeyo Pongsakorn in 1:41:26.

Meanwhile, Lionel Toh claimed sixth spot in the men's 100m T37 final, with gold going the way of Vietnam's Le Van Manh (12.78s).

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 05, 2015, with the headline 'THAILAND LEAD THE WAY'. Print Edition | Subscribe