Australian doctors, cave divers honored in Thailand for helping rescue soccer team, coach

Two Australian doctors who were instrumental in the dramatic rescue of 12 Thai boys and their soccer coach from a cave last year received a royal honor from King Maha Vajiralongkorn on Friday.

Richard Harris and Craig Challen were presented the award at a ceremony in Bangkok. Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha was also in attendance.

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Harris and Challen said before the presentation that they were looking forward to going to Chiang Rai province on Monday and see how the boys on the Wild Board soccer team they helped save were doing.

In this photo released by Government Spokesman Office, Richard Harris, left, an Australian member of the Thai cave rescue team, shakes hands with Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha after receiving the Member of the Most Admirable Order of the Direkgunabhorn during the royal decoration ceremony at the Royal Thai Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, April 19, 2019. 

In this photo released by Government Spokesman Office, Richard Harris, left, an Australian member of the Thai cave rescue team, shakes hands with Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha after receiving the Member of the Most Admirable Order of the Direkgunabhorn during the royal decoration ceremony at the Royal Thai Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, April 19, 2019.  (Government Spokesman Office via AP)

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"It's really exciting for us to go and see them and make sure they're well and see how they're doing after the rescue," Harris said. "Hopefully we will find them in good shape."

Last July, a mixed team of Thais and expert divers from several countries around the world joined forces for the dramatic search and rescue mission for the team and their coach who went missing when heavy rain flooded the Tham Luang cave complex.

The drama and eventual rescue unfolded over 18 days and grabbed global headlines.

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Harris and Challen, who were jointly named Australians of the Year in January, and said should another cave rescue be needed, they are ready and willing to help.

"We have a little bit more experience now," Challen said. "We seem to be the world record holders in cave-diving rescues now."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.