At the Athens Games four years ago, Yaowapa Boorapolchai or Nong View captured all Thai hearts after she fought with guts to win an historic Olympic bronze in taekwondo, but here in Beijing, Buttree fared better as she already went a step better than what Yaowapa had done in Athens, only to go down to world champion Chinese Wu Jingyu 0-1 in the heart-felt showdown.
Teenager Buttree overpowered Cuban Daynellis Montejo, bronze medal in the 2005 world meet, 1-0 in the first round and tamed Vietnamese Truc Tran Thi Ngoc 2-1 in the all-Asians quarter-finals. In the semi-finals, the Thai girl beat Venezuelan Dalia Contreras Rivero by superiority (countback from ringside judges) after the match ended in a 2-2 draw at full time of three rounds and no score in the sudden death.
Against Wu, who also won the 2005 Universiade, Buttree had a tough going. She suffered on a powerful kick by the strongly-built Chinese to trail 0-1 in the first round. The remaining two rounds ended in a scoreless tie. Wu eventually took the gold after narrowly beating Buttree 1-0.
"I did my best and had no pressure taking on the world champion in the final round. I did not fear her, but I just wanted to make sure every kick would earn a point. That's why I have to be more careful fighting with her," said Buttree, former world junior champion and the SEA Games gold medalist.
"I think coming this far in my first Olympics is a very great success. As for handsome cash incentives I will receive from generous supporters, I intend to buy a new house for my parents, but I have yet known where the construction will be.
"Though returning with an Olympic silver, I still spend my normal life. Nothing changes much. After finishing my Grade 12 at Satree Mahaprutaram School, I plan to further my studies at Kasetsart University, but have yet decided what faculty I will study in."
Despite claiming silver, teenager Buttree is sure of returning in a blaze of glory. Aside from fame and reputation, the 18-year-old from Samut Prakan has been guaranteed of handsome Bt7.8-million cash incentives (Bt6m from the National Sports Development Fund, Bt500,000 each from AIS, McDonald and Osotspa M-150 and Bt300,000 from Siam Sports upon her arrival in Thailand.
She will also receive a Hilux Vigo pick-up worth Bt677,000 from Toyota, a Yamaha motorcycle worth Bt47,500, a five-baht gold bar from M-150 plus a monthly salary of Bt10,000 for 20 years from the Olympic Committee of Thailand Foundation.
As Buttree left the competing venue at the Beijing University of Science and Technology Gymnasium with her head high in great pride, Chutchawal Khawlaor departed with his head low in great disappointment.
The Bangkok Universiade gold medalist lost 3-4 in a third-place play-off against Taiwanese Chu Mu-Yen, the defending champion, world champion and Asian winner, in the men's under-58kg category.