Panipak Wongpattanakit

She is Thailand’s first ever Olympic gold medallist in taekwondo.

Panipak hungry for more Olympic glory

Taekwondo fighter Panipak Wongpattanakit reached the peak of her career last year when she won an Olympic gold medal at the Tokyo Games.

The Surat Thani native claimed the women’s 49kg title in thrilling fashion.

Hot favourite to go all the way at the 2020 Tokyo Games, Panipak found herself trailing Spanish teenager Adriana Cerezo Iglesias 10-9 in the final moments of the gold medal bout.

As the little-known opponent seemed to be heading for a shock victory, Panipak kept her cool and landed a kick with just five seconds left to seal a dramatic 11-10 win.

“It’s super dramatic,” exclaimed one Thai TV commentator into the mic at the time.

It was probably the best birthday present Panipak has ever had as the triumph came just days before she turned 24 on Aug 8 which happened to be the final day of the Tokyo Olympics.

With the win, she became Thailand’s first ever Olympic gold medallist in taekwondo.

Panipak was also her country’s only champion at the Tokyo Games.

“In the closing stages of the final, I was a bit nervous. But there was still time and I was able to control myself. I tried to score and I did it,” said Panipak whose nickname is ‘Tennis’.

“I am happy that I did it. I waited five years for this.”

The win laid to rest the ghosts of 2016 when she could only finish third at the Rio Olympics.

At the 2016 Games, she was a gold medal contender but had to settle for bronze.

She was so upset by the result that she thought about quitting the sport after returning home.

But after staying away from taekwondo for two months, she decided to have another go at an Olympic gold medal.

“I had a really good chance in Rio but in a fraction of a second, I blew it. I was so disappointed that I told my coach I did not want to continue. But after two months, I really missed taekwondo and resumed training,” Panipak said.

“I often told myself, ‘You have to go back [to the Olympics] and win [the gold medal]’.”

Under the guidance of her long-time coach Choi Young-Seok from South Korea, who is now a Thai citizen called Chatchai Choi, Panipak has a complete collection of gold medals from all major international events including the Olympics, world championships and Asian Games.

She is the top-ranked exponent in the women’s 49kg class and has been undefeated in the category for several years.

The Tokyo Games success is unlikely to be her last on the international stage.

Panipak is already looking forward to the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“I want to do the best in every competition. I want to be in the next Olympics in Paris,” she said.

Her main target this year is to defend her Asian Games title in Hangzhou, China.

“ I want to do the best in every competition. I want to be in the next Olympics in Paris. ”