As many tourists and residents of Pattaya were preparing to participate in the annual King’s Cup Pattaya Marathon, another, yet smaller sporting competition was taking place at a school just off Sukhumvit Road.
Each July the students from the Redemptorist Vocational School for People with Disabilities hold a two day sporting event which sees the students divided into four teams and competing in a variety of sports, including athletics, swimming, wheelchair basketball, sit-down volleyball, wheelchair tennis, boccia and petanque.
The start of the long wheelchair race.
All students are expected to take part in at least one sport and for many new students it may be the very first time they have ever participated in a sporting event.
A red team cheerleader.
Prior to joining the school many students have never entered a swimming pool, yet they learn to swim for the good of their team. Other female students learn to use a wheelchair to ensure there are enough players in the wheelchair basketball team competition.
Friendships are put on hold as pals compete with each other to gain as many points as they can for their team, and each team wants to win the trophy for having the loudest supporters.
The school has a very long tradition of sport and at the London Paralympics 2012, eight out of the fifty Thai athletes who took part were former students at the Pattaya school. One came home with a gold medal from the boccia competition while a former teacher won a silver medal in the 4x100m wheelchair race; this silver medal brings his total Paralympic medal tally to nine after winning four gold, three silver and one bronze medal at the Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and the Beijing 2008 Games.
Students regularly take part in local, national and international sporting competition and it gives them much more than a chance to win a medal. It gives the students a sense of belonging when they are part of a team and a sense of achievement when they win.
Watching sports for the disabled may not be everyone’s preferred viewing, but the vocational school in Pattaya is where sporting legends are made.
Paralympian powerlifter Narong Kaesanan carries the flame to start the games.
Winners and runners-up in the swimming relay.
It’s a long way to the end of the pool.
All smiles as they near the finish line.
The wheelchair sprint relay.