CHIANG RAI, Thailand (AP) — The 12 boys and their soccer coach rescued from a cave in northern Thailand left the hospital where they had been recuperating and appeared at a news conference Wednesday, looking healthy as they answered questions from journalists from around the world.
The group entered the news conference to applause from reporters and classmates and put on a quick demonstration of their ball-handling skills on a miniature soccer field set up in the hall where they met the media.
They then hugged their friends before taking seats up front with doctors and members of the Thai navy SEAL unit who dived to help bring them out, along with others who helped them during their ordeal.
Doctors said the 13 were healthy in body and mind. They said the boys gained around 3 kilograms (6.6 pounds) on average since they were rescued from the cave. They were said to have lost an average of 4 kilograms (9 pounds) during the more than two weeks they were trapped in the cave.
The news conference was the first opportunity the members of the team had to speak directly to the media, though video of them was released previously. Officials reviewed questions in advance to make certain none might cause damaging psychological effects.
They were asked about the moment when two British cave divers first found them and also the circumstances of how they entered the cave and got trapped there.
The Wild Boars teammates had entered the Tham Luang cave on June 23 for what was to be a quick, relaxing excursion after soccer practice. But rain began falling while they were underground, and water filled the caverns, cutting off their escape.
The British divers found the group huddling on a spot of dry ground deep inside the cave nearly 10 days later, hungry but generally healthy. An international team of rescuers using diving equipment and pulleys extracted the 12 boys, who range in age from 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach through the tight, flooded passageways over three days, concluding July 10.
Some of the boys were treated for minor infections during their hospital stay, but all 13 have been described as recovering well.
The family of one of the boys was preparing their home for his return Wednesday night.
Banphot Konkum, an uncle who has raised 13-year-old Duangpetch Promthep, said he’ll have a renovated bedroom and gifts awaiting him.
“We’ll do whatever he wants. If he wants anything we’ll buy it for him as a present as we promised that when he gets out, whatever he wants we’ll do it for him,” Banphot said.