[ATHLETICS] Thai athletes have their sights firmly set on winning at least five gold medals in the Bangkok Universiade, which will take place between August 8 and 18.
On the prospects of the Thai athletes taking part in the biennial sports extravaganza, national head coach Pol Maj Gen Supanut Ariyamongkol disclosed recently that the host country will field a total of 72 athletes in the 24th edition, having their eyes on gold medals in men's 200m, 4x100m relay and half-marathon, women's 4x100m relay and javelin.
He is quite upbeat that history will not repeat itself this time. At the previous edition in Izmir, Turkey two years ago, Thai men's sprinting quartet of Siriroj Darasuriyong, Watchara Sorndee, Sompoj Suwannarangsi and Sitthichai Suwornpratheep performed dismally with an erratic baton handover, failing to make their mark and returning empty-handed.
"I don't think the same situation will reoccur. They are training much harder in preparation for the tougher competition this time," Supanut commented.
"I've been considering who should be the right choice to make the Thai sprinting relay in the Bangkok. Among those who performed superbly during the training stints are Sitthichai (Suwornpratheep), Seksan (Wongsala), Sompote (Suwannarangsi), Watchara (Sorndee), Siriroj (Darasuriyong), Thaweesak (Poolthong) and Panom (Pudsa)," he added.
In the recent three-leg Asian Grand Prix, the Thai men's quartet lost to China in the first leg on home soil, but stole the show in the following leg in Guwahati, India. The Thai team and China battled it out again in the final leg in Pune, India to clock the similar times of 39.78 seconds, but the Chinese captured the gold following the photo finish.
The Athletic Association of Thailand (AAT) is also on the way of making a decision on who should be the national women's foursome in the Universiade.
So far, sprinters making their mark during the training stints and the concluded Asian Grand Prix, where they made a clean sweep in all three legs, comprise Sangwan Jaksunil, Oranuch Klomdee, Juthamas Thaworncharoen, Nongnuch Saenrat, Patcharin Chandaeng and Supawadee Khaopuek.
It is likely, Supanut said, that the national women's quartet for the Bangkok Universiade can be announced in early July.
He added that sprint king Sitthichai Suwornpratheep could be one of the Thailand's medal prospects to be reckoned with in the top-flight competition, while the Doha Asiad gold medalist Buaban Phamang, who also made an hat-trick of winning at this year's Asian Grand Prix, can lift the Kingdom's gold in the women's javelin.
"I think if Buaban proves well that she remains fit physically and mentally, she can be a gold-medal hopeful in the Universiade. Boonthung (Srisang), double-gold medallist at the previous SEA Games in the Philippines, will represent Thailand in the men's half-marathon and I think he also stands a good chance of returning with a medal no matter what colour it will be.
"Two years ago, it was a pity that our women's team could not take part in the 4x100m. relay in the previous edition in Izmir, Turkey due to the late submission of their entry form by names to the organizing committee.
"This gave my girls no chance to be eligible for the competition in Turkey. However, not only the Thai girls, but also several teams faced the similar problem on the late submission.
"I think application forms in the previous Universiade in Turkey were unclear and athletes from many countries were also confused with the languages shown in the forms. I don't think we will face such a problem this time.
"The AAT will help stage the track and field competitions here. Forms will be written easier for applicants to understand and fill out, while volunteers and liaisons in French, Spanish, Russian and Chinese have already been assigned to take good care of those athletes and officials in case they need help," he said.
"However, although our athletes stand a good chance of winning gold in several disciplines. I don't think they will underestimate the rivals. We found that a large number of athletes from the United States of America, China, Japan and Europe also confirmed their participation in the 24th Universiade.
"This will allow home athletes a tough time to win the targeted five gold medals and land the overall athletics champions. However, I hope that my athletes will try their best," Supanut concluded.