Kingdom battles Vietnam for second place
Hosts Indonesia kicked on after passing the century mark of gold medals to maintain their comfortable lead in the standings of the Southeast Asian Games yesterday, as Vietnam and Thailand battled hard for overall second in the biennial sports extravaganza.
Thai athletes enjoyed mixed fortunes as they chased the 36 gold medals at stake yesterday. Their overall target of 125 golds remains a distant dream, with only four days to go before the curtain comes down on the 26th edition of the Games, on Tuesday.
Thailand’s first two golds yesterday came from the water ski tournament, where the men triumphed in the trios competition and the mixed team wakeboard, where they collected a winning aggregate of 300 points.
The evening session at the equine arena saw Thai riders land two equestrian titles, in the individual eventing and mixed team events. Promton Kingwan handed Thailand the first gold in the individual eventing, while a quartet of Namchok Jantakad, Supap Khaw-Ngam, Tanaporn Chavatorn and Weerapat Pittakanon took the second gold in the eventing mixed team. Supap Khaw-Ngam also claimed an additional silver for Thailand in the individual eventing.
Thailand swept to their fourth gold medal in the sepak takraw competition yesterday. After taking three golds from the women’s team event and the men’s and women’s regu, the Thai smashers yesterday continued to dominate by capturing the men’s team event with a crushing 3-0 win over hosts Indonesia in their final encounter of the round-robin contest.
The tennis competition at the Jakabaring Sports Complex witnessed an upset for Thailand when consecutive four-time SEA Games men’s doubles champions Sonchat and Sanchai Ratiwatana fell victim to Vietnamese Do Minh Quan and Ngo Quang Huy, going down in three hard-fought sets (1-6 6-4 10-6) in their quarter-final.
On the penultimate day of the sailing and windsurfing competitions, where a total of nine gold medals will be on offer, Thais led overall in three categories – former world junior champion Keerati Bualong in the men’s Laser Radial, Siripon Kaewduang in the women’s RSX and Ek Boonsawad in the men’s RSX. Among the trio, Ek should be a sure bet for gold after storming home first in all six rounds. Two more rounds will be contested in each category today, the final day of the sailing and windsurfing competitions.
In the beach volleyball semi-finals at the Jakabaring Sports Complex yesterday, Thailand enjoyed mixed fortunes when Kamoltip Kulna, consecutive two-time champion, teamed up with new parter Varapatsorn Radarong to beat Malaysians Luk Tech Hua and Deh Shun Thin 2-0, but last year’s Guangzhou Asian Games bronze medallists Jarunee Sannok and Usa Tenpaksee went down 2-1 to Indonesians Ayu Siam and Dhita Juliana.
The Thai duo of Kamoltip and Varapatsorn next take on the Indonesians in the women’s showdown.
A total of four gold medals were at stake in the weightlifting contest yesterday, with hosts Indonesia taking the first two golds, in the men’s 62kg and 69kg classes, leaving Vietnam to claim the third gold in the men’s 56kg event. Thailand’s Atthapon Daengchan finished a distant fifth in the men’s 69kg class after lifting an overall 296kg in the Olympic Total.
At press time, the men’s 77kg event was underway, with two Thai weightlifters – Ekkachai Yeeram and Somphon Kaeokoet – still in with a chance of winning medals.
One sport in which Thai athletes have performed beyond expectations here is swimming. After six days at the Jakabaring Aquatic Centre, Singapore rule the pool with 17 golds, while Thailand are in second place overall with eight golds. Indonesian swimmers have won six golds, Malaysia five and Vietnam two.
The Thai swimming squad have made a big splash overall, grabbing 20 medals in total. Before leaving for Palembang, the Thai Amateur Swimming Association set a slim target of just two gold medals, including one each from Natthanan Junkrajang and Nattapong Ketin.
However, Natthanan, who claimed just a single gold at the previous Games in Vientiane, Laos two years ago, came back much stronger this time to plunder five gold medals, all of them in individual events – the 100m, 200m and 400m freestyle, 200m and 400m individual medley.
Natthanan has emerged as the most successful Thai athlete at these Games and will be rewarded handsomely with a cash incentive of Bt1.35 million when she steps back onto Thai soil with her haul of five gold, three silver and one bronze. The National Sports Development Fund will dish out performance bonuses of Bt200,000 to gold-medal winners, Bt100,000 to silver medallists and Bt50,000 to bronze winners.
Along with Natthanan, Nattapong Ketin also proved a dominant force for Thailand in the pool. He was in awesome form to win three gold in the men’s 100m and 200m breaststroke and 200m individual medley events. Nattapong will claim Bt600,000 in bonuses upon his return.