Asean Para Games: Thais aim to win back crown

Athletes and officials from Myanmar attending a team welcome ceremony yesterday, at which the Asean Para Games was hailed as an important platform to help forge a stronger regional identity.
Athletes and officials from Myanmar attending a team welcome ceremony yesterday, at which the Asean Para Games was hailed as an important platform to help forge a stronger regional identity.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Indonesia focused on topping medal table again, athletes also aiming to make cut for Rio Paralympics

The Asean Para Games (APG) in Singapore may place greater emphasis on mettle than on medals, but teams here for the region's most prestigious multi-para-sport event are well aware that it is also about competition.

Teams who have traditionally performed well at the biennial event, now into its eighth edition and being held here for the first time, are targeting a good finish again.

Some athletes are aiming to qualify for the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro next year.

Thailand, the largest contingent with 261 athletes competing across 14 sports, are gunning to regain their spot as regional kingpins, having been displaced by Indonesia at last year's APG.

The Thais have traditionally topped previous editions.

 

While modest about their medal targets, with a team including 2012 Paralympic table tennis (Class 6) champion Rungroj Thainiyom and boccia (BC1) gold medallist Pattaya Tadtong, chef de mission Pitak Pakhan said Thailand are expected to also do well in athletics, swimming and wheelchair basketball.

"I hope we do the best for the Games," said Pakhan, on the sidelines of a team welcome ceremony held yesterday morning at the Marina Bay Sands events plaza.

But the Thais will have to fend off the challenge of the Indonesians, who are bent on staying dominant.

The latter will be fielding 189 athletes - the second-largest contingent - across 11 sports. Said Faisal Abdullah, chef de mission: "Even though we are taking part in 11 sports... we believe we have the ability to top the medal table again.

"Indonesia really wants to win."

He expects the country to shine in athletics, swimming, badminton and shooting.

Their contingent includes 2012 Paralympic table tennis (Class 10) bronze medallist David Jacobs.

Malaysia, who will host the next edition of the APG in 2017, have sent a team of young athletes to gain competition experience.

Said chef de mission Ang Kean Koo: "We are hoping to maintain a top-three placing. I expect more golds (this time). Our target is for the next two years. We brought more young athletes so that they can gain experience and perform better (at the next Games).

"I expect Thailand and Indonesia to finish tops again but Singapore is looking well prepared too."

With swimming and powerlifting sanctioned by the International Paralympic Committee as sports where athletes can earn qualification to the Rio Games next year, many athletes will also be aiming to make the cut.

Singapore APG Organising Committee chairman Lim Teck Yin, in his address yesterday, lauded the athletes for earning their place at the Games, and also contributing to the "vision" of the APG with each of their stories.

With the APG coming on the back of the declaration last month to form an Asean community at the end of the year, he added: "I believe that the significance of the APG will continue to grow in the years to come as we strive together to strengthen our sense of Asean oneness and shared identity."

The Games will kick off tomorrow with the opening ceremony, a 90-minute show set to light up the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

About 1,200 athletes from 10 South-east Asian nations will compete across 15 sports.


•Additional reporting by Chua Siang Yee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 02, 2015, with the headline 'THAIS AIM TO WIN BACK CROWN'. Print Edition | Subscribe