Badminton boss pins hopes on Sudket, Saralee

Badminton boss pins hopes on Sudket, Saralee

Mixed duo have easiest path, says Charoen

Mixed doubles duo Sudket Prapakamol and Saralee Thoungthongkam are the best bet to win Thailand's first-ever Olympic medal in badminton, according to the country's chief of the sport.

The Thai badminton team leave for London on Tuesday night. They are led by Thai badminton chief Charoen Wattanasin, fifth right, and team manager Khunying Pattama Leesawattrakul, centre.

Charoen Wattanasin, president of the Badminton Association of Thailand, said yesterday that among six Thai shuttlers Sudket and Saralee look to have the easiest path to glory in London.

The other Thai players are Boonsak Ponsana in the men's singles, Ratchanok Inthanon in the women's singles, and Bodin Issara and Maneepong Jongjit in the men's doubles.

Sudket and Saralee, who will be making their third Olympic appearance, are in Group D with second seeds Xu Chen and Ma Jin of China, Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying of Malaysia and Taiwanese pair Chen Hung Lin and Cheng Wan Hsing.

In the doubles events, the top two pairs in each group advance to the quarter-finals.

"Group D is not too tough," said Charoen, one of Thailand's legendary badminton players. "They have a high chance of finishing first or second in the group."

In the quarter-finals, the Thai pair could face Denmark's Joachim Fischer and Christinna Pedersen or Shintaro Ikeda and Shiota Reiko of Japan from Group B.

"I think Sudket and Salaree can beat both pairs," Charoen said.

"As long as they do not face top seeds Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang from China, they stand a good chance of winning a medal."

Wang and Yu are in Group A and they could face the Thais in the semi-finals or the final.

Boonsak said he must use all weapons to beat world No. 3 Chen Long of China.

In his third and last Olympic campaign, world No. 22 Boonsak must defeat Chen to advance to the knockout rounds.

In the singles events, the players are split into 16 groups, with just the group winners advancing to the next round. There are only Boonsak and Chen in Group E and they will play on Sunday at Wembley Arena.

"I will be tough. He is a good and tall player. But I will do my best in my last Olympics," said the 30-year-old.

Ratchanok, who is seeded ninth in the women's singles, is looking forward to the round of 16 where she is likely to face sixth seed Juliane Schenk of Germany.

Ratchanok, the three-time defending world junior champion, is in Group M with Thilini Jayasinghe of Sri Lanka and Telma Santos of Portugal.

"Many people say I am just a junior champion. I am now ready for the Olympics and will prove that I can beat players at the senior level," said the 17-year-old.

Kaew improving

Sakda Petchjinda, the Thai boxing team's technical chief, said Kaew Pongprayoon (49kg) has become better in both attack and defence.

China's reigning champion and hot favourite Zou Shiming beat Kaew in their last meeting but Sakda said the result would be different if they meet in London.

"I think Zou does not want to meet Kaew because Kaew is much better now," he said.

Kaew, 32, will be fighting in his first and last Olympics and is seen as Thailand's best hope in boxing.

As for Chatchai Butdee (52kg) and Sailom Ardee (60kg), they have changed their style after sparring with foreign fighters in Manchester, said Sakda.

Chatchai's wife is expecting a baby on Aug 26 and the boxer said this inspired him to win a medal for his child. But he could face tough opponents from the US, Cuba and Great Britain.

Natthapong to carry Thai flag

Thailand's chief of delegation Thana Chaiprasit confirmed yesterday that swimmer Natthapong Ket-in will carry the Thai flag at the opening ceremony tomorrow.

Badminton player Boonsak was originally selected for the duty but concerned party changed their plan because Boonsak will compete on Sunday.

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