Published on August 10, 2007
Thailandís Sittichai Suwonprateep, centre, crosses the line as the menís 4x100 relay team raced to victory yesterday.
Home sprinters trailed a blaze of glory at the Thammasat Rangsit Main Stadium last night, capturing two medals, including the first-ever gold in athletics from the awesome men's quartet.
Talented Sittichai Suwonprateep anchored a high-profile squad comprising Pirom Autas, Wachara Sondee and Sompote Suwannarangsi for the quartet to time an impressive 39.15 seconds, bettering their gold-winning performance of 39.21 in the last year's Doha Asian Games.
Nervous Pirom made a diffident start, which saw the Thai team trail South Africa and China in third place. However, Sitthichai surged past his rivals in the last 50 metres to set up the victory. South Africa and China finished second and third in 39.20 and 39.30 respectively.
Confident of their ability to win the gold, the Thai squad had carried the national flag into the stadium. As they were celebrating victory, national head coach Pol Maj-General Supanut Ariyamongkol went towards them, shaking hands with everyone, but blamed Pirom for the poor start.
"He was very nervous. If he had run with more confidence, we could have broken a record," Supanut said. "I think it's a good performance, as we had won the gold medal in the Asian Games in Busan, South Korea, in 2002. Pirom is a newcomer and that's why he became very nervous. It's a pity they could not run 39.0 which would have secured them a berth for the World Championships in Japan in the next few months," he added.
The team's gold medal was only the Kingdom's second in the Universiade history, and first ever in athletics. Thailand had won their first ever gold in the previous edition in Izmir, Turkey, two years ago with the success of taekwondo exponent Patiwat Tongsalap in the men's lightweight category.
The triumphant quartet are now assured of pocketing Bt1 million each from the National Sports Development Fund.
Earlier, Thai fans at the Thammasat Rangsit Main Stadium and millions of TV viewers already had something to celebrate when the women's quartet of Sangwan Jaksunin, Orranut Klomdee, Juthamas Thavorncharoen and Nongnuch Sanrat ran a season-best time of 43.92 to bag a silver medal. The Finnish team stole the show, hitting the tape in 43.48 to win the gold, with Ukraine coming in third in 43.99.
"A second place is not that bad. It's a pity we ran in the seventh lane. We could not see our rivals clearly," said Juthamas. "However, I think we did a good job with an impressive timing. It's better than the time of 44.33, which we achieved in the Asian Games in Doha last year."
The women's team will receive cash incentive of Bt500,000 per person from the Fund for their silver winning effort.
Meanwhile, the Thai taekwondo had a major setback yesterday when Rapatkorn Prasopsuk, one of the Kingdom's gold-medal hopefuls, suffered a first-round loss to Spaniard Leire Herboso in the women's heavyweight (72kg) category, going down 0-2.
In badminton, the Thai players got off to a flying start with two straight wins yesterday. After beating South Africa 5-0 in the mixed team event, Thailand, who are playing Group A, walked over Zambia to next go up against France. The French side also claimed two wins over South Africa and Zambia.
Four records tumbled at the Aquatic Centre. Ryusuke Sakata of Japan broke the men's 200m butterfly record with a time of 1 minute 55.92 seconds. Sydney Olympics silver medallist Flavia Rigamonti of Switzerland won the women's freestyle 800m in 8:25.59.
The third Games record was set by Austrian Markus Rogan, who timed 1:56.66 in the men's 200m backstroke.
The American women's 4x100 freestyle team broke the Games record twice on their way to winning the gold in 3:40.85, which eclipsed their previous mark of 3:41.42 in the morning's qualifying round.
In basketball, the Thai women's team went down to Canada 33-68.
The Thai men's volleyball squad beat Egypt 3-1 (25-19 25-21 22-25 25-22).
A total of 21 gold medals are up for grabs today.