Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Champs of the Games

Today's Top Stories - Tuesday December 18, 2007

Champs of the Games

Nakhon Ratchasima - Thai athletes scooped up a mammoth 184 gold medals and easily won the 24th Southeast Asian Games at Korat, an achievement overshadowed by constant claims of unfair judging.

With golden fireworks, music and traditional Thai dancing, the biennial event drawing 11 countries closed its curtain at the main stadium in Korat, northeastern Thailand.

"I am glad to preside over the closing ceremony. Sports events not only strengthen relations among nations but also give opportunities for athletes to develop their skills," Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont said.

The chairman of the Thai National Olympic Committee, General Yuthasak Sasiprapa, handed over the Southeast Asian Games flag to Laotian Deputy Prime Minister Somsawat Lengsavad at the ceremony, whose nation will host the competition in 2009.

Thailand bagged 409 medals in total, including 183 golds, racing far ahead of second-ranking Malaysia, which won 68 golds. Vietnam finished third with 64 golds.

Among the 11 competitors, East Timor was the only country that did not win any medals. The tiny half-island nation was the world's newest country after gaining independence from Indonesia in 2002.

On Friday, soccer-crazed Thailand basked in the glory after beating Myanmar 2-0 to take the football gold and securing their eighth consecutive SEA Games title.

On the tennis court, defending champion Cecil Mamiit of the Philippines shocked Thai hotshot Danai Udomchoke to take the gold Friday.

But the boxing tournament was thrown into chaos Thursday after six Philippine fighters retired in a protest over the judging, and their walkout helped hosts Thailand sweep to all 10 boxing golds.

The Philippines' chef de mission Monico Puentevella told AFP earlier that the decision to retire from the fights was taken by the boxers following the results in the women's contests Wednesday.

Manny Lopez, president of the Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines, called the boxing competition a "comic show" after Thailand won six out of the seven women's events.

There have also been allegations of biased judging in favour of Thai athletes in the weightlifting.

The biennial SEA Games have been dogged before by accusations of bias, with this year's event marking a role reversal for Thailand, who levied similar claims against the Philippines at the last Games in Manila.

The SEA Games participants were Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. (BangkokPost.com, Agencies)

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