Thai stars who lifted the clouds of darkness


Taekwondo fighter Panipak Wongpattanakit celebrates his victory at the Tokyo Olympics. RP

Like people around the world, Thais also couldn’t escape the wrath of Covid-19, but like everywhere else, sports fans across the country also had their moments to treasure.

As the year draws to a close, several Thai athletes have made dreams come true and made their compatriots happy.

Thai sports fans saw a taekwondo exhibitor win an Olympic gold medal, a Paralympian athlete win three gold medals, a golfer win a major championship and a pair of badminton bag eight incredible titles among other glorious moments. .

Golden kick

Panipak Wongpattanakit became Thailand’s first Olympic taekwondo champion in spectacular fashion at the Tokyo Games.

After having to settle for bronze at the Olympic Games in Rio 2016, the native of Surat Thani was favorite to go all the way to the women’s 49 kg division at Tokyo 2020.

She reached the final with comfortable wins and faced the unrecognized Adriana Cerezo Iglesias of Spain in the gold medal match.

It looked like Panipak was heading for another heartbreaking end as the Spaniard led as time ticked on.

With seven seconds remaining, Panipak landed a kick to win 11-10, just days before he turned 24.

“I’m glad I did. I’ve been waiting for this for five years,” said Panipak, nicknamed Tennis.

“I had a really good chance in Rio but in a split second I missed it all. I was so disappointed and told my coach I didn’t want to continue. But after two months the I really missed taekwondo and resumed training.

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

Boxer Sudaporn Seesondee poses with her Olympic bronze medal. RP

Medal that changes life

Boxer Sudaporn Seesondee was one of only two Thai medalists at the 2020 Olympics along with taekwondo champion Panipak.

The 29-year-old from Udon Thani won bronze in Tokyo to become the country’s first female boxer to win an Olympic medal.

“It was the happiest moment of my life when the ref raised my hand [as the winner]she said after securing at least one bronze medal after her quarterfinal victory.

It was an Olympic medal that changed Sudaporn’s life.

In addition to cash awards from government and private companies, Sudaporn, then a volunteer ranger in the Royal Thai Navy, was appointed second lieutenant.

Mixed doubles badminton duo Dechapol Puavaranukroh, front, and Sapsiree Taerattanachai have won eight titles this year. dpa JOSE JORDAN

Superb shuttles

Mixed doubles specialists Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai ended a remarkable year with their very first world title.

They became the first Thai badminton players to win a doubles crown at the BWF World Championships.

The only other Thai commuter to win a world title is women’s singles star Ratchanok Intanon, who achieved the feat in 2013.

In total, Dechapol and Sapsiree, now the top-ranked mixed doubles pair, have won eight tournaments in 2021, including five consecutive in the final stretch of the year.

They have played 10 tournaments and only reached the final at the Tokyo Olympics once, where they were prematurely eliminated.

“We are very happy with this year and grateful to our fans,” said Sapsiree.

Golfer Patty Tavatanakit is the reigning ANA Inspiration champion. dpa Michael Reaves

It’s “just crazy”

At the start of the 2021 season, only fans of Thai golf knew Patty Tavatanakit.

Then, in April, she became a shining star on the international stage with her decisive victory on the LPGA Tour at the ANA Inspiration, the first major tournament of the year.

Patty, whose Thai name is Paphangkorn, is the only golfer to have won the most major tournaments in her country after Ariya Jutanugarn.

Now her country’s 13th-highest ranked player, Patty also won the LPGA Tour Rookie of the Year and the Annika Major Award which recognizes the player with the most outstanding record in the five major championships of the season.

“It’s great to be a great champion,” Patty said after ANA Inspiration.

“I just turned 21 six months ago and now I’m a big champion in my first year. It’s just crazy.”

Golfer Ariya Jutanugarn holds the LPGA Thailand Trophy. RP

Local hero

Eight years ago, Ariya had a disastrous finish at the Honda LPGA Thailand at Siam Country Club in Pattaya where she lost a two-stroke lead on the last hole.

She buried the ghosts in the same location in May when she won the title to become the first local star to win the tournament.

“I’m proud of myself. It represents the world to me because one of my biggest dreams was to win in Thailand, especially after 2013,” said the two-time major winner.

She also teamed up with her sister Moriya to win the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational, a doubles tournament, for her 12th LPGA title.

Golfer Atthaya Thitikul will take part in the LPGA Tour next year. afp PHILIPPE DESMAZES

teenage prodigy

Teen golfer Atthaya Thitikul has won two tournaments on the Ladies European Tour and won all of the tour’s top season end honors – the Race to Costa del Sol, player of the year and rookie of the year.

She was twice second in the LPGA Tour at the LPGA Thailand and the Women’s Scottish Open as well as fifth in the Evian Championship.

The 18-year-old Ratchaburi finished third in the Q Series this month to earn an LPGA Tour card for next season.

“My goal is to improve myself every day,” she said.

Wheelchair racing athlete Pongsakorn Paeyo reacts after winning the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

Hot wheelchair

Wheelchair racer Pongsakorn Paeyo won gold in the men’s 100m, 400m and 800m T53 events in Tokyo, making him the first Thai to win three titles in a single Paralympic Games.

“My next goal is definitely Paris 2024. I have to prepare myself from now on to make the Thais happy again,” said the 24-year-old from Khon Kaen.

Pongsakorn has now won five Paralympic gold medals, two short of the country record set by fellow wheelchair racer Prawat Wahoram who won seven.

Thailand’s Fab Six volleyball players – left to right, Wilavan Apinyapong, Malika Kanthong, Onuma Sittirak, Pleumjit Thinkaow, Amporn Hyapha and Nootsara Tomkom. FIVB FIVB

Fabulous women

Thailand’s Fab Six played their last game for the country at the FIVB Women’s Volleyball Nations League (VNL) in Rimini, Italy, in June.

Captain Wilavan Apinyapong, Malika Kanthong, Onuma Sittirak, Pleumjit Thinkaow, Nootsara Tomkom and Amporn Hyapha have bid farewell to the national team after around two decades.

The Thai Volleyball Association (TVA) had called up a young team for VNL 2021, hoping to prepare them to win the country’s very first Olympic place in the sport at Paris 2024.

Unfortunately, a large number of them have tested positive for Covid-19, forcing the TVA to ask the Fab Six one last time to help the country.

The sport’s governing body, the FIVB, called them “fabulous women”.

“Coming from a Southeast Asian country with a rich volleyball history, six women have come together to pursue their dreams and become the country’s sporting heroines,” a report said on fivb.com.

“What they lacked in height, they more than made up for in creativity, technique, speed, teamwork, heart and passion.”

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