Thailand confident of Rio Games gold

Thailand confident of Rio Games gold

Charouck expects weightlifters to deliver, Sakol banking on Ratchanok and shooter Sutiya

>>Thailand's sports lynchpins are hoping that there will no repeat of London 2012 at this year's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in August as the Kingdom will return with at least one gold medal.

After boxer Somluck Kamsing became Thailand's first Olympic champion in 1996, the Kingdom won at least one gold medal in every Games until the 2012 episode when they could only claim two silver and one bronze medals in London.

So far, 45 Thai athletes have qualified for the Rio Games to be held from Aug 5-21 and more are expected with the women's volleyball team, who will be vying for an Olympic spot in Japan later this month, being one of them.

Charouck Arirachakaran, general secretary of the National Olympic Committee of Thailand, and Sakol Wannapong, governor of the Sports Authority of Thailand, are both convinced that the four-year wait for another Olympic gold will be over in August.

However, they are banking on different sports to deliver the gold in Rio de Janeiro.

"Weightlifting is our best hope this time and I have been assured by the association that it will definitely bring home the gold," said Charouck, referring to an assertion by Intarat Yodbangtoey, advisor to the Thai Amateur Weightlifting Association.

Nine Thai weightlifters have qualified for the Rio Olympic Games.

Charouck added: "We also have a good chance in taekwondo but it would all depend on the draw. I do not think our boxers are good enough to win the gold."

As for badminton star Ratchanok Intanon and skeet shooter Sutiya Jiewchaloemmit, the 83-year-old Charouck said that both athletes have performed well of late, but they might find it difficult to maintain their form until the Rio Olympics.

"Ratchanok seems to be at her best now. I am not sure if she will remain in form until the Games," said Charouck.

He also revealed that Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha will not be able to join the opening ceremony on Aug 5 and will be represented by Deputy Prime Minister Tanasak Patimaprakorn.

In contrast, Sakol sees the Thai gold coming from badminton, taekwondo, and skeet and trap shooting events.

"I am quite sure the gold medal will come from these three sports and we might end up celebrating more than one gold medal," he said.

"As for weightlifting, we don't stand a chance."

The SAT governor said that Ratchanok was full of confidence following her recent successes and if she can maintain her fitness until the Games, she is likely to win the gold.

In taekwondo, Panipak Wongpattanakit is sure to be picked ahead of 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Chanatip Sonkham for the Rio Games.

Her only real challenger at the Games is expected to be China's Wu Jingyu, who will be seeking her third straight Olympic gold.

"Ratchanok must remain in a good shape while Panipak must study how to beat the Chinese. If they can, they will deliver the gold," Sakol said.

He added that shooter Sutiya has gained more experience and "is much better after working with a psychologist. With her recent World Cup triumph in Brazil, she is more confident now."

Meanwhile, the 21-year-old Ratchanok said she was "100 percent confident" she would bring home a medal from the Rio Olympics, despite losing her top ranking last week.

Ratchanok, known to her fans as Nong May, was crowned the world's No.1 women's singles player last month after sealing three successive Superseries titles in as many weeks.

But she was bumped back to second place, behind Spain's Carolina Marin, after an early loss in last week's 2016 Asian Championships.

Ratchanok nevertheless has vowed to claim Thailand's first ever badminton Olympic medal.

"I am 100 percent confident I will get a medal," she said at a court on the outskirts of Bangkok where she practises daily.

"The whole world will be watching. I want to get a medal, no matter which medal it is," she added.

Olympic success would mean redemption for Ratchanok, who was crushed after she was eliminated in the London 2012 quarter-finals. She became the youngest ever world champion the following year.

Her Chinese coach, Xie Zhihua, said he had faith in the "fearless" player, who has consistently set and reached her sporting goals. "Now the only thing she lacks is an Olympic medal," he said. bangkok post/afp

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