Thais to step out with hope and belief

Thais to step out with hope and belief

Spotlight on Panipak, Kunlavut, Pornchai

Taekwondo fighter Panipak Wongpattanakit poses with her gold medal at the 2018 Asian Games. (Photo: Reuters)
Taekwondo fighter Panipak Wongpattanakit poses with her gold medal at the 2018 Asian Games. (Photo: Reuters)

Thailand will have one of the biggest delegations at the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, with a total of 1,313 athletes and officials.

With 939 athletes competing in all 40 sports, Thailand aim to claim 15-23 gold medals in the tournament, which officially runs from Saturday to Oct 8.

The Kingdom got 11 golds at the previous Games in Indonesia in 2018 and finished 12th in the medal table.

They won four gold medals in sepak takraw, two each in paragliding and taekwondo, and one each in cycling, jet ski and shooting.

Paragliding and jet ski are not included in the Hangzhou programme.

This time, the Elite Sports Development Department, under the Sports Authority of Thailand (SAT), predicts that its athletes will bring home 23 gold medals.

The assessment was made after talks with officials from the sports associations which are sending athletes to the Games.

They believe that the country will win five gold medals in boxing, three each in sepak takraw and athletics, two in karate, one each in jujutsu, taekwondo, shooting, eSports, yachting, equestrian, roller sports, cycling, kabaddi and canoeing/kayaking.

Meanwhile, officials from the sports associations told the Sports Reporters-Photographers Association of Thailand that they will secure a total of 15 gold medals.

Badminton player Kunlavut Vitidsarn on the way to winning the world title. afp MADS CLAUS RASMUSSEN

They hope to win four golds in sepak takraw, two each in shooting and roller sports, and one each in boxing, jujutsu, taekwondo, eSports, sailing, kabaddi and canoeing/kayaking.

While Thailand are not a sporting powerhouse even at the Asian level, they have produced a number of Olympic, world and continental champions.

One of Thailand's best bets is taekwondo star Panipak Wongpattanakit.

The 26-year-old has been dominant in the 49kg class and is the defending champion at both the Asian Games and Olympics.

"This will be my third Asian Games," Panipak said recently.

"I won bronze in my first Asian Games [in South Korea in 2014] and gold in my second Games [in Indonesia in 2018]. This will be my last Asian Games so I want to win gold."

She said her dangerous opponents are likely to be those from China and Iran.

Sepak takraw star Pornchai Kaokaew, left, is seeking his 11th Asian Games gold medal. afp ADEK BERRY

Nicknamed 'Tennis,' Panipak will retire after the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Sepak takraw star Pornchai Kaokaew will also compete in his last Asian Games.

The 42-year-old has a higher chance of winning gold in Hangzhou than Panipak as he can play in several events.

It is his sixth Asian Games as he is chasing his 11th gold at the quadrennial tournament.

The Thai women's volleyball team, who won their third Asian crown this month, will be hoping to become successful at Hangzhou.

The Thais upset China 3-2 in the final of the Asian Women's Volleyball Championship in Nakhon Ratchasima earlier this month.

Thailand also stunned Japan by the same scoreline in the semi-finals.

China, who beat Thailand 3-0 in the final at the 2018 Asian Games, will want to seek revenge if they meet again in Hangzhou.

Thailand's delegation chief Thana Chaiprasit (in red/blue jacket) greets members of his team as they arrive in Hangzhou on Thursday. afp WILLIAM WEST

Reigning world champion Kunlavut Vitidsarn will be carrying the Thai hope in badminton.

The 22-year-old beat Japan's Kodai Naraoka 2-1 in the men's singles final of the BWF World Championships in Copenhagen last month.

It is Thailand's third world crown in the sport after Ratchanok Intanon in the women's singles in 2013 and Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai in the mixed doubles in 2021.

Dechapol and Sapsiree will also be medal contenders at the Games.

However, it could be difficult to win gold in badminton on Chinese soil although Ratchanok won her world title in China.

Unfortunately, Ratchanok is ruled out of Hangzhou 2022 as she is nursing an injury.

In the meantime, a large number of Thai fans want to see their men's football team finally win a medal.

They have finished fourth four times in 1990, 1998, 2002 and 2014.

The Thais stunned China 1-0 in the quarter-finals at the 1990 Beijing Games on the hosts' national day.

In 1998 in Bangkok, Thailand shocked hot favourites South Korea 2-1 after extra time in the same round.

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