Payao Poontarat, 49; Boxer Won Thailand's First Olympic Medal

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Payao Poontarat, 49, a champion boxer who in 1976 won Thailand's first Olympic medal, died Sunday of Lou Gehrig's disease at a Bangkok hospital.

Poontarat was 19 when he captured a bronze medal at the Montreal Games. The onetime flower seller from the beach town of Bangsapan was celebrated as a national hero after his Olympic triumph. He later held the World Boxing Council super-flyweight crown.

In 2001, he won a seat in parliament. Almost a year later, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a degenerative muscle ailment often called Lou Gehrig's disease.

Thailand made its Olympic debut at the 1952 Helsinki Games. The country won boxing medals in every Olympics from the 1984 Games in Los Angeles through the 2004 Athens Games.

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