Aiming for medals and friendship, intl' athletes prep for Asian Games

With the Asian Games around the corner, international athletes are making final efforts for the continent's biggest multi-sport tournament, expecting to make breakthroughs while deepening

bonds with friends from afar.

The 19th Asian Games, which will open in Hangzhou, in eastern China's Zhejiang Province on September 23, is going to embrace approximately 12,500 athletes from 45 countries and regions.

With 40 sports and 61 disciplines, athletes will compete for a total of 481 gold medals during 15 days of competition.

As world and Olympic champions suit up for their national teams once more, athletes have known how tough the journey might be, but are motivated to show their edge.

Bertrand Rhodict Lises, who recently became the first Malaysian to earn a ticket to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, will compete in Hangzhou, together with the national aquatics team.

"Although China appears the dominant force on paper in these two Aquatic disciplines [diving and swimming] due to their track record and reputation, I have faith that our divers and swimmers will fight until the end and push themselves in order to secure medals for Malaysia," said Dato' Chong Kim Fatt, Chef de Mission of Malaysia's contingent to the 19th Asian Games.

Claiming both golds in the men's handball at Asian Games in Incheon in 2014 and in Jakarta in 2018, Qatar's athletes are aspiring to continue their winning streak in Hangzhou.

Jassim bin Rashid Al Buainain, Secretary-General of the Qatar Olympic Committee, said that he wishes success to all federations and hopes to achieve results that reflect the development of Qatari sports and its prominent presence at the continental level.

Sepak takraw, a traditional and highly popular sport in Southeast Asia, will also feature as a medal event.

"I'm looking forward to winning a medal for the Lao people," said Noum Souvannalith, from Laos' national sepak takraw team. "We performed quite well in the latest Asian Games in Indonesia and won a silver medal. We'll do our best this time too."

Binmapa Kaewkamsai, from Thailand's women's sepak takraw team, says she also expects to vie for her country's glory at her maiden Asian Games. "We will face opponents from countries with increasingly higher skill levels which might pose a challenge," said the 26-year-old, adding that her team has prepared well for the tournament.

For many others, the continental stage is also a vital opportunity to bring hearts closer.

"I think the Hangzhou Asian Games can unite forces in Asia and play a positive role. The Asian Games hosted by China will promote unity and friendship in Asia," said Chandai Phiathep, coach of Laos' national sepak takraw team.

"The good relations between Iran and China will definitely be further strengthened through such events and occasions and the two countries' friendship in the field of sport will expand," noted Seyed Manaf Hashemi, Secretary-General of Iran's National Olympic Committee.