Student athletes compete in annual sports for the blind

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The annual sports competition at the Pattaya School for the Blind came to an end on the morning of Thursday 26th January with the final games of the sports events.

As in previous years the students were split into two teams, blue and green, and the competition saw the students competing in athletics, swimming, table tennis, soccer, checkers, goal ball and volleyball.

The flame of the Games is lit to start the competition.The flame of the Games is lit to start the competition.

The day started with the opening ceremony, which saw all competitors marching around the school grounds until they were assembled in front of the invited distinguished guests, including the Mayor of Pattaya, Itthiphol Kunplome.

Many may think that blindness will be an obstacle to sports participation, but the blind and visually impaired students want to compete just as sighted students do.

However, blind students cannot compete on the same level as sighted people, and sports do have to be adapted.

Father Matthew presents the winning medals.Father Matthew presents the winning medals.

When playing volleyball, the ball is allowed to bounce once and with the ball having a small bell inside the players listen for the sound of the bell before catching it.

Running events will see people standing around the running track and guiding the runners.  If the runner is going off course they are told to run straight, more to the left, more to the right.

Some will have a small piece of string tied to their wrists.  The other end is held by a teacher or trainer who will run alongside the blind athlete, but will not help in any way.  Rules are strict, and if a trainer is seen to be pulling the athlete, then the runner are disqualified.

Mayor Itthiphol learns that playing without sight is not easy.Mayor Itthiphol learns that playing without sight is not easy.

First competition taking place on the day saw Mayor Itthiphol being invited to wear a blindfold and compete against one of the blind students in a game of table tennis.

Table tennis for the blind is played differently than regular table tennis.  The ball contains a small bell, and instead of being hit over the net the ball goes under the net. Mayor Itthiphol soon realized that it is not as easy as it sounds or looks, but he played a good game.

There are several very talented athletes at the school, many of whom regularly participate in local, national and international sporting competitions.

Whilst there are many students who stand at the closing ceremony with not a single medal around their necks, others are almost weighed down by their hoard of gold and silver medals.

But for those who won no medals this year – better luck next year.

Mayor Itthiphol shakes hands with his ping-pong rival.Mayor Itthiphol shakes hands with his ping-pong rival.

The green team receives the award for best cheerleaders.The green team receives the award for best cheerleaders.