Laotian invasion at Masters Games

It's a Laotion invasion of Wanganui, with a strong touch of Aussie about it.

Canberra-based Laotion badminton players have a few titles at the New Zealand Masters Games in their sights after the husband-wife pairing of Khonsawath and Lani Jaiyawong took the 35-plus mixed doubles on the first full day of competition at the New Zealand Masters Games in Wanganui.

Tomorrow they split up to join with their travelling partners Konnika Phomson and Thanh Huynh to play the men's and women's doubles, and then all attack the singles later in the week.

Success didn't come easily today - Christchurch's Pam Geard and Paraparumu's Grant Demeneche firstly and then the Wellington pairing of Richard Kirby and Hazel Davies Howard made sure of that.

In fact, Kirby and Davies Howard led 8-0 before taking the first set, but the Canberra pair fought back strongly.

Both were born in Laos before moving to Canberra in their teens. Phomson and Huynh, who are partners, were both born in Australia. The Jaiyawongs have played together just twice, despite being married for a reasonably lengthy period.

"My usual partner had to stay behind in Canberra to work,''said Khonsawath.

"So I partnered my wife.''

There are a dozen ACT athletes of various ages at the Wanganui Masters Games.

The inexperienced partnership followed a similar performance in the morning duathlon - the first of the 55 sports to find its medallists.

This time the partners didn't know each other - in fact, they worked at the same place, Palmerston North Hospital, without knowing each other existed.

Anaesthetist Neil Pollock phoned community nurse Patricia Stitchbury after he saw on the Games entry they were both without a partner.

Marathon runner Stitchbury took the running job and Pollock the cycling, and they headed home local former world rowing champion Philippa Baker-Hogan and husband Shaun.

Wanganui's Nelda Hazelhurst took the women's event and Palmerston North's Soren Hall won the men's race.

Eighteen sports of the 55 total started their competitions while yachting continued its start from Friday.

A total of 5033 entrants from 11 countries are taking part. but some sports don't close entries until their competition day.

The Games finish on February 11.

- APNZ

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