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Disabled Lao man raises the profile of cycling in the region

He doesn’t have a perfect body like other people but that doesn’t prevent Mr Vilaphone Phouthavongxay from dreaming big.
Vilaphone, 34, is one of the thousands of disabled people in Laos. A road accident in 2007 cost him his right arm and shattered many of his dreams.
Despite his handicap, he recently played an active role in a cycling trip to Khammuan province with his friends to promote tourism for Visit Laos Year 2018.
“About six months after my accident I came to terms with the lifestyle that comes with being disabled and tried to return to what I had been doing in the past, especially playing sports like basketball and football. But things weren’t the same,” he said.
Vilaphone used to be good at basketball while in school and competed in several tournaments. After the accident, he tried his best to play in more tournaments but was unable to do so. It was in 2015 that a friend suggested he take up cycling.
“I didn’t think I would enjoy this as much as basketball and football. But the cyclists I met helped each other and shared their experiences,” he said.
For two years, Vilaphone hit the streets on his bike and began to dream of working with other Lao cyclists to raise the level of the sport within the region.

Vilaphone Phouthavongxay is one of the disabled Lao athletes who took part in the Asean Para Games in Malaysia recently.

“I learnt from other cyclists in Vientiane when I joined them for rides every weekend, and I also learnt from the internet,” he said.
He took part in cycle races in Laos and Thailand and often finished among the top ten.
Recently, he and his friends went to Khammuan for a ride that took them from the provincial capital to a mountain over a distance of more than 80km. They cycled at heights of more than 500 metres above sea level. He was the first disabled cyclist to lead his friends to the top of the mountain during the ride from the Nam Theun 2 dam to Nakai district.
One of his friends, Chaleunsack Phimma, said Vilaphone gets a lot of attention whenever he rides.
Vilaphone is not only good at cycling but has also represented Laos in sports meets for the disabled. He attended the Asean Para Games in Malaysia where he came sixth in the men’s 100 metres, even though this was the first time he had participated in the event.
“I was very proud of my performance; at least people in this region will know that Laos too can do well at such events,” he said.
He suggests that youngsters would benefit from engaging in sports rather than other worthless activities that cause social problems. He said his experiences had taught him a lot that he wanted to share with others.
“When you have an opportunity to do something good for society, just do it. Many people don’t realise the dangers of road accidents until they are involved in one. Avoiding road accidents is good for people and others close to them,” he said.
He promised to be a good model for other disabled people by encouraging them to be active and contributing members of society.
“Whatever happens in the future, I will keep doing sports, for my own benefit and for the nation, for as long as I have the opportunity,” he said.

By Souknilundon Southivongnorath
(Latest Update November 17, 2017)

 

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