Thai boxer who medaled in 1976 dies of Lou Gehrig's

Updated: August 14, 2006, 12:58 AM ET
Associated Press

BANGKOK, Thailand -- Payao Poontarat, a boxer that earned Thailand's first Olympic medal, died of Lou Gehrig's disease. He was 49.

Poontarat died Sunday, an official at Bangkok's Siriraj hospital said. He had been hospitalized since December.

Poontarat was 19 when he captured a bronze medal -- the first in the kingdom's history -- at the Montreal Games in 1976. He later held the WBC superflyweight crown.

The one-time flower seller was celebrated as a national hero after his Olympic triumph.

In 2001, he won a seat in Parliament as a member of the Democrat Party. About a year later, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis -- a neurodegenerative disease commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

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

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press