PHOTOS: Event marks one year since soccer team rescued from Thai cave

Nine players and coach took part in marathon and bike event to help improve conditions at cave

Runners warn up before the start of a marathon and biking event in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, Thailand, Sunday, June 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

When the 12 young boys and their soccer coach walked into a cave complex in northern Thailand a year ago Sunday, they didn’t know their lives were going to forever change.

Rising floodwater quickly trapped the youngsters inside the Tham Luang cave complex, setting off a more than two-week ordeal that the world watched with rapt attention and that left the members of the Wild Boars soccer club with a survival tale that propelled them into celebrities.

Nine of the boys and their coach were on hand Sunday in the northern town of Mae Sai to mark the anniversary along with some 4,000 others by taking part in a marathon and bike event to raise money to improve conditions at the cave.

“I want to thank everybody who has put so much effort and sacrifices to save all of us,” said Ekapol Chantawong, the former coach of the Wild Boars who led the boys on the ill-fated visit to the cave.

Ekapol stood in front of a bronze statue of Lieutenant Commander Saman Gunan that has been erected to honour the former Thai navy SEAL who died while working on the search and rescue.

The boys spent nine nights lost in the cave, living on very little food and water, before they were found spotted deep in the twisting cave complex huddled on a patch of dirt above the rising water line. It was a moment captured on video and soon broadcast to the world.

It would be another eight days — until July 10 — before they were all safe.

Also on hand Sunday were a number of the local and foreign divers who took part in the search and rescue operation, which due to its danger and difficulty has been hailed by many as a miracle.

The operation required placing oxygen canisters along the path where the divers manoeuvred dark, tight and twisting passageways filled with muddy waters and strong currents.

“Not many children could have survived the way they did, so we have to respect them for that,” said Vernon Unsworth, a British diver whose advice and experience played a key part in the search for the boys and their eventual rescue.

“What we should do right now is to just let them get on with their lives. Just let them grow up like normal kids,” he said.

A year later the boys are notably older and taller. Wearing orange T-shirts from the event, they smiled and posed for photos. They have grown familiar with the attention they receive, though are not altogether comfortable with it.

Three of the players as well as Ekapol were stateless and were granted Thai citizenship last August.

READ MORE: ‘No surprise’ Langley diver stepped in to help Thai cave rescue, says brother

The team travelled last year to Argentina and the U.S. The boys and their coach are represented by the 13 Tham Luang Co. Ltd., which Thailand’s government helped establish to manage business opportunities stemming from the ordeal. Netflix has acquired the rights to their story.

The Associated Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Participants start a marathon and biking event in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, Thailand, Sunday, June 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Just Posted

Two new bridges to be built along Highway 16 between Port Clements, Tlell

Ministry of Transportation says $5.4-million project expected to be complete in fall 2020

‘Now Is the Time’ doc will start streaming on National Indigenous Peoples Day

Film featuring Haida carver Robert Davidson will launch June 21 for free on NFB website

Haida Gwaii couple frustrated after Air Canada cancels flight, denies compensation

Mike Racz says another passenger received $1,000 while he was only offered e-coupon and promo code

Haida Gwaii teachers heading back to empty classrooms on June 1

SD50 working with CHN following May 21 request to keep school closed until state of emergency lifted

COVID-19 highlights lack of connectivity in First Nations communities

Many don’t have access required to utilize online platforms, says First Nations Technology Council

VIDEO: Green Coast offers free kayaking to Haida Gwaii residents

First “pop-up paddle” held Monday, May 25; free community paddles expected to continue weekly

Toronto Raptors’ Ujiri says conversations about racism can no longer be avoided

Thousands have protested Floyd’s death and repeated police killings of black men across the United States

‘I’m afraid’: Witnesses of wolf attack on senior near Prince Rupert worried about safety

Frank Russ shows where the unprovoked wolf attacked his father

Protesters prepare to rally against racism in front of Vancouver Art Gallery

Rally is in response to the deaths of black Americans and a Toronto woman

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

Protesters rally against anti-black, Indigenous racism in Toronto

Police estimated the crowd to be between 3,500 and 4,000 and said there was no violence

Feds earmark $1.5M to support recovery of B.C., Indigenous tourism

B.C. money will be split between Vancouver Island and Indigenous tourism

‘We’re sick of it’: Anger over police killings shatters U.S.

Tens of thousands marched to protest the death of George Floyd

Most Read