Thais assured of 3 berths at Winter Games

Thais assured of 3 berths at Winter Games

Fourth spot at Pyeongchang tournament likely

Three Thai athletes have qualified for the 2018 Winter Olympics, officials said yesterday.

The trio are siblings Mark and Karen Chanloung in cross-country skiing and Nicola Zanon in Alpine skiing, according to Charouck Arirachakaran, secretary-general of the National Olympic Committee of Thailand.

They all are Thais with Italian blood and train in Italy, he said.

Mark and Karen competed at the Asian Winter Games in Sapporo earlier this year.

With three representatives at the Pyeongchang Games in South Korea, it will be Thailand's biggest contingent in one Winter Olympics.

Since the nation's official debut in the Winter Olympics in 2002, Thai athletes have appeared in every edition with the exception of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

At the 2014 Games in Sochi, there were two Thai athletes -- Kanes Sucharitakul and British violinist Vanessa Mae who competed as Vanessa Vanakorn using her father's surname.

Swiss-Thai Alexia Schenkel should also get a Pyeongchang berth in Alpine skiing as she is competing in the qualifying tournaments, Charouck said.

Phumchai Vichiansing, secretary-general of the Ski and Snowboard Association of Thailand, said it was a great achievement that Thailand have already won three berths at the 2018 Winter Olympics which will be held in February.

However, he admitted that it will be extremely difficult for them to win a medal.

"I am confident that they will finish in the top 30 of their events," he said.

Meanwhile, the US Olympic Committee on Friday said it will send a full team to compete at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang despite mixed messages from the White House about whether the country would participate.

UN Ambassador Nikki Haley had said it was an "open question" as to whether the US would travel to South Korea amid weapons tests by its neighbour North Korea and White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters no official decision had been made before clarifying in a tweet that the "US looks forward to participating."

"I think there was just some miscommunication there rather than anything intended to be substantive," USOC CEO Scott Blackmun told reporters following a board meeting in New York.

"We are going to take a team to Pyeongchang unless it's physically impossible or legally impossible to do that," he said.

"We are 100 percent committed to our athletes on that."

Blackmun said no Olympic sponsor or athlete had raised concerns about the safety of travelling to South Korea despite growing tensions between the US and North Korea.

"We are going to be bringing a team and showing up like 100 other nations," he said.

The 2018 Games will take place from Feb 9-25. bangkok post/reuters

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