After the completion of the games in 2009 in Vientiane, support for sports development in Lao has practically ground to a halt. Internationally funded coaches (both Lao and foreign) that previously provided structured programs for Lao athletes training for the games have returned to their home countries or stopped coaching due to the discontinuation of funding. Sports facilities built for the games have also started to deteriorate as maintenance costs can no longer be met. As a result several athletes who were able to compete at an elite level at the SEA Games are now in a state of limbo, with no facilities, coaches or competitions and hence little motivation to continue pursuing their sporting dreams.
However, the Laos’ Middle Distance Athletic Squad is an extremely dedicated group of athletes. The squad consists of 4 girls and 6 boys. Disciplines range from 800m to 10km. All 10 athletes are aged in between 15 and 24 years. Despite limited facilities and the few competitions in own country, all athletes have continued training a minimum of 5 times a week, with some training up to 8 times a week.
I began voluntarily working with the Lao athletes after the completion of the SEA Games. Besides the coaching of these athletes, I started together with Emma to look for sponsors to take the squad to the Angkor Wat International Half Marathon which was held in Cambodia on December 5th, 2010. After raising more than $4000, 7 athletes traveled to Cambodia. The experience was a phenomenal success.
The Arafura Games is the leading international sporting competition for emerging athletes from the Asia Pacific region. Held every two years in Darwin, the capital of Australia’s Northern Territory, the Arafura Games features many different sporting disciplines including athletics. The event is as much about cultural integration as the sports themselves, with the games being billed as a ‘meeting of sporting neighbors’. The next Arafura Games will be held between 7-14 May of 2011. It is a great opportunity for some of the athletes of the Lao squad to continue fulfilling their sportive ambitions and become leading sports ambassadors of their country. Therefore Emma and I are looking again for donors to allow for 6 athletes to participate in the Arafura Games. Two athletes are expected to participate in the 5.000 meters race, another two will race the 800 meters and the remaining two will represent Laos in the half marathon. Expected costs to take 6 athletes to the Arafura Games are 3000 US$ (6 athletes a 500 US$ per athlete). The management of the donations will be done by INGO Village Focus International.
And now: would you like to support Lao Athletes to compete at the Arafura Games?