Photo by Thanis Sudto
Right now, badminton champion Boonsak Ponsana could be the country's most successful, active sportsman.
He is No 1 in his sport in Thailand and the world's No 10 men's badminton player.
But, it has not been a bed of roses.
Like any ambitious young person aiming to be a world-class athlete, Boonsak practices hard all day.
"Sometimes I'm bored and want to give in, but have never thought about giving up," the 25-year-old says.
"I always tell myself it's not about the time. I believe I can push further."
Boonsak practices mornings and evenings Monday to Friday and again on Saturday mornings. His sessions last from 8am to 10am or 11am. The evening workouts are between five and eight.
In the morning sessions he works on fitness and strength with running and weight training. Later in the day it is "technical" practice.
"My coach tries to train me to concentrate on every shot," he says.
Since childhood Boonsak has spent most of his time with badminton. His first touch of a racquet came at seven. At the age of nine, he started to practice seriously helped by his father and then went to China to train for two years.
Sixteen years later all his hard work and effort has put Boonsak on top of the badminton world.
He won the Siam Cement All Thailand Badminton Championship six times between 1999 and 2005 and is truly world class.
Boonsak has reached the finals of serious tournaments including the SEA Games, the opens of Indonesia and Hong Kong Open, the World Cup and the Asian Badminton Championships.
In 2004, he finished fourth in the men's singles at the Athens Olympics and in the same year won the Thailand Open.
However, no one is perfect. Each athlete has different strong and weak points. Some may have a powerful smash, move quickly or defend well.
On the other hand, those who do not have a lot of stamina may have experience, concentration or mental control instead.
Boonsak admits his weak points are stamina and power and says this is the reason he has not won more on the international scene.
"At the world-class level my skill is better than others, though." But, it takes power to dominate the game at this class.
Boonsak says being a professional athlete does not guarantee a stable income.
"Some months I might win Bt30,000 or Bt40,000 or nothing at all from tournaments."
Traditionally, Thailand does not pay its national badminton players for training as do other countries. And, while things are improving, it is still a tough life.
Siam Cement is now a sponsor of the Thai team. Last year, he was given Bt12,000 a month but this year his practice fees have been cut in half.
But, with the SEA games and the Olympics to look forward too his income will increase with stipends from the badminton association.
Sports careers are short and Boonsak dreams of becoming world champion and collecting games medals before retirement.
"After the Asian Games 2010 I am not sure if I will continue. I have to see if I am still fit enough," he says.
Boonsak wants to see more young people taking up the sport and one day replacing him as a national
Boonsak suggests, "If you want to take up badminton as career you must love it, personally - it should not be your parents forcing you to play for their goals."
By Trichai Narungasiya
Special to The Nation