LAOS SEA GAMES: Games of many firsts

Posted by samakomlao Friday, December 18, 2009

The 25th SEA Games here in Laos will go down in history as the Games with many firsts. While Laos hosted the Games for the first time, this landlocked Indo-China nation has certainly left a big mark in the world of sports in this part of the world. A poor nation in terms of economy, Laos left no stones unturned in their bid to leave a lasting impression among the 11 participating countries that it has arrived to take on the best in the region - both in terms of sporting excellence and development. From the friendly people with an ever ready smile and greeting you with a warm sabaidee (Hello), the Laotians extended their hospitality to one and all who came to the country for the Games - as participants or as visitors.

More importantly, Laos shed its 'whipping boys' or 'minnows' tag and put up an impressive performance in the sporting arena with an impressive haul of medals won by their athletes. From winning just five gold medals at the last SEA Games in Korat, Thailand in 2007, Laos made every one sit up and take note of their athletes as they raked in 33 gold, 25 silver and 52 bronze medals - surpassing their earlier target of 25 gold medals.

As expected, Thailand topped the medal tally with a haul of 86-83-97 but the entire kingdom was left weeping by losing the football gold - dubbed the 'mother of all gold medals' in both the men's and women's football. Thailand had been winning the SEA Games crown in men's football for the last eight editions since 1993 while for the women, they were the defending champions.

Thai football has certainly taken a beating in Laos where it is the first time since 1973 that Thailand failed to make the final four in football.

At the same time, Laos are fast gaining on the football powerhouses in the region by reaching the semi-finals before falling 3-1 to eventual champions Malaysia. On the other hand, Malaysian regained their status as the SEA Games football champions with a 1-0 win over Vietnam in the final. Malaysia also knocked out Thailand from a place in semi-finals.

And Thailand's supremacy as the top sports nation in the South East Asian region have also come under serious threat. Vietnam finished a close second in medal tally with figures of 83-75-57.

Indonesia established themselves as the sprint kings with Suryo Agung Wibowo retaining his 100m with a new record of 10.17 (which is faster than winner 's time of 10.21 at the 2006 Doha Asia Games) and the 200m. Indonesia, who will host the 26th edition of the Games in 2011, also hailed little "wonder girl" Triyaningsih, who stands at 146cm and weighs slightly over 37kg, as the long distance queen. She retained the 5,000m and 10,000m golds with the latter in a record time of 32:49.47 (old record 33:50.06).

The 21-year-old from Salak Tiga in Central Java, is ranked eighth in the world in women's marathon. The men's 10,000m also went Indonesia's way with Agus Prayogo taking the gold. He also took the 5,000m gold for repeat his success he achieved in Korat. Malaysia's ended a 12-year wait in the men's 400m with Mohd Zafril Zulaisni taking the gold - after Romzi Bakar last won the gold in Jakarta in 1997. Vietnam broke the monopoly of traditional powerhouses Malaysia and Indonesia in pencak silat by taking six golds compared to the three gold haul in Korat.

Laos shooters and taekwando exponents were also on golden trail - sending out strong signals that their rivals will have to take note of their 'arrival' in the two sports. A big 'thank you' to the people of Laos. You made us all feel at home while showing true sportsmanship in the battle for the medals in what is a incident-free SEA Games when it comes to the subjective sports. Laos may have finished in mid-table in the medal standings but you were the big winners overall.

We are bound to hear of Laos in the coming future. A point to note is that every nation returned home with a medal to show for their participation where Timor Leste at least won three bronze medals - a significant showing of the Games anthem of Generosity, Amity, Healthy Lifestyle.


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