Laos has sent more than 600 athletes and officials to the 24th Southeast Asian Games or SEA Games in Thailand’s northeastern province of Nakon Ratchasima. The games which began on the 6th of November, will be closed on the 16th of this month. The head of the Lao delegation to the SEA Games, Mr. Sengphone Phon-Amarth, Director of Sport Department at the Lao Prime Minister’s Office, told VOA by phone that of the 657 members, more than 400 are athletes, the rest are coaches and officials.
This year’s delegation is the biggest that Laos has ever sent to a SEA Games, because Lao officials see this year’s event in Thailand as a test for its athletic squad before Laos hosts the 25th SEA Games in 2009, according to Mr. Phon-Amart.
Lao athletes have taken part in 28 events out of more than 40 events to compete for more than 470 gold medals at the 24th SEA Games, including petanque, swimming, track and field, judo, karate, wushu, boxing and mouaylao or Lao boxing.
To prepare for this year games, Mr. Phon-Amart said, Laos has hired or invited many foreign coaches to train Lao athletes, including a Russian coach to teach soccer, Japanese and Mongolian coaches to teach judo, Chinese coaches to teach wushu and track and field, and a Cuban to train boxing teams.
Before going into the games, Laos anticipated 5 gold medals, 10 silver and 15 bronze. But Mr. Phon-Amart said so far Laos has already received 4 gold medals(2 from petanque and another 2 from judo), 2 silver medals from judo and wushu, and 23 bronze medals from various sports. He added that at least Laos stands to get 5 more medals in either gold or silver from mouaylao and amateur boxing.
Southeast Asian nations participate in this year's SEA Games include Laos, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, East Timor, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Lao athletes won three gold, 4 silver and 12 bronze medals at the 23rd SEA Games in the Philippines in 2005.
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