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ARKIB : 28/12/2003

Thailand wins ASEAN Para Games, Vietnam celebrates successful event

THE ASEAN Para Games flag is being lowered official to indicate the closure of the games during the closing ceremony in Hanoi, Dec 27. - Utusanpix.

HANOI Dec 27 - Thailand celebrated winning most gold medals at the second ASEAN Para Games, which closed here on Saturday, while Vietnam trumpeted its success in hosting the event.

Just two weeks after the Southeast Asian Games, which involved more than 5,000 athletes and coaches, Vietnam put the disabled in the spotlight for four days of competition.

Thai athletes grabbed a total of 100 gold medals, 62 silvers and 31 bronzes, ahead of Vietnam with 82 golds, 78 silvers and 85 bronzes.

Malaysia finished third with 53 golds, 39 silvers and 48 bronzes.

Laos and East timor were the only countries not to bag any gold but Mateus Lukas, 25, won East Timor's first ever medal, a bronze in the men's 48 kg weightlifting division.

Participants were divided into five degrees of disability, including those who are paralysed, wheelchair-bound, visually impaired, suffering cerebral palsy or are mentally-retarded.

Medals were distributed for track-and-field and swimming events, weightlifting, badminton and table-tennis.

State media on Saturday congratulated the government for the success of the competition, saying foreign participants had praised its smooth running.

``I am really amazed by what has happened in Vietnam,'' said Zainal Abu Zarin, president of the ASEAN Para Sports Federation.

``Thanks to the will of all brother countries from the bottom to the top, it was a great success and this is a good example to give the world of your ability to organise large events,'' he said.

About 700 handicapped athletes from the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries and East Timor participated in the event.

Despite humid and cold weather, ``a lot of people have come to the stadiums and the competition halls to support the disavantaged athletes,'' National Sports Committee vice-chairman Nguyen Trong Hy said.

The first Para Games, held after the 21st Southeast Asian Games in Malaysia in 2001, was contested by only around 400 athletes. The next edition in the Philippines should be even bigger than this year's event.

Francisco Carlos Lahoz, head of the Philippines delegation here, said his country was planning to add football for the blind, chess and volleyball. - AFP

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