The first Thai gold medalist at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics arrived in Phuket Monday to a hero’s welcome, but must wait 14 days before taking her taekwondo victory lap around the country.
Panipak “Tennis” Wongpattanakit arrived at Phuket International Airport after winning the gold medal in the women’s taekwondo under-49-kilogram class on July 24.
A celebration was held to welcome back the gold medalist, the national team coach Choi Young-seok, and men’s taekwondo Olympian Ramnarong “Junior” Sawekwiharee from Japan, with the Minister of Tourism and Sports Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn greeting the team on arrival.
HRH Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana Rajakanya bestowed flower bouquets that were presented by Phuket Gov. Narong Woonciew.
Panipak and the other team members arriving in Phuket are subject to the same rules and requirements as other international arrivals in the Phuket “sandbox” scheme, including on-arrival Covid-19 testing conducted at the airport.
After completing the test, the Olympic champion was greeted and congratulated by representatives of several organizations, including the Sports Authority of Thailand’s governor, the Taekwondo Association of Thailand’s president and other local agencies in Phuket.
Panipak thanked her father, the coaches, and the association before traveling to the Novotel Phuket City Phokeethra hotel where she and the team waited for results of their coronavirus tests in their rooms. The team will be cleared to travel freely within Phuket if the results return negative.
During her 14-day stay in Phuket, Panipak will be engaging in tourism-promotion events and a victory parade slated for Aug. 5 across the island.
Thailand’s tourism minister said the plan for Thai athletes to return to Phuket after their competition in the Tokyo Olympics will give them a chance to relax while helping promote tourism in the island province.