The Tokyo Olympics closed Sunday with Thailand coming home with a gold and a bronze in a summer games where Thai athletes did worse than any games since 1996.
Taekwondo gold medalist Panipak Wongpattanakit (women’s 49-kilogram division) and boxer Sudaporn Seesondee, who grabbed bronze in the women’s 60-kig. Class, are the kingdom’s flag-bearers on a very competitive Thai team.
Both wrote new chapters in Thailand’s sporting history books — Panipak, 23, is Thailand’s first-ever Olympic champion in taekwondo and Sudaporn, 29, is the country’s first-ever female boxer to win an Olympic medal.
The country’s sports authorities had targeted winning at least one gold at the Tokyo games. Sudaporn’s podium finish was a bonus.
“I am happy that I did it. I waited for this for five years,” said Panipak, who is nicknamed ‘Tennis’.
As proud as Thailand is of their two winners, there were 39 others who fell short. And the Sports Authority of Thailand wasn’t reminding anyone of its earlier pledge to secure three golds in Japan. After all, Thailand brought home two gold, two silver and two bronze medals from the 2016 Olympics with both titles won by weightlifters.
Unfortunately, Thai weightlifters were banned from taking part in Tokyo 2020 due to doping.
Among the best remaining hopes were Panipak, golfer Patty (Paphangkorn) Tavatanakit, mixed doubles shuttlers Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai, skeet shooter Sutiya Jiewchaloemmit, and boxers Chatchai-decha Butdee and Sudaporn.
The others who had high chances of winning medals were golfer Ariya Jutanugarn, boxers Baison Maneekon and Juthamas Chitrapong, 10,000-meter runner Kieran Tuntivate, badminton players Ratchanok Intanon and Busanan Ongbamrungphan, and windsurfers Nattapong Phonoparat and Siriporn Kaewduang-ngam.
Tokyo 2020 ended up being Thailand’s worst Olympic campaign since the 1996 Games in Atlanta where boxer Somluck Kamsing won the country’s first-ever Olympic gold medal and Vichai Rachanon, also a boxer, took bronze.
These games also marked the first time in 45 years that Thailand’s male athletes finished without a single medal.
The 2020 Olympics was also the first time since 2000 that Thailand, who finished 59th in the Tokyo medal standings, failed to claim the bragging rights of being the best Southeast Asian nation at the Games.
SAT Gov. Gongsak Yod-mani said he was unsatisfied with the results. “We won too few medals but we have to thank the athletes for making us happy,” he said.
“Looking on the bright side, although we did not have weightlifters at Tokyo, we won two historic medals in taekwondo and boxing. I hope we’ll have weightlifters at Paris 2004 as this could boost our chances of winning more medals.”
He said female boxers could be Thailand’s new medal hopes at the Olympics. Among the 41 Thai athletes in Tokyo, 30 were young stars or Olympic debutants.