In a week of challenging race conditions in Abu Dhabi featuring feather light winds and a freak storm, Thai sailors earned a record four medals and four highly-coveted tickets to the Rio 2016 Olympics, more than any other nation represented at the ASAF (Asian Sailing Federation) Asian Sailing Championships 2016, which concluded March 12.
Thailand now stands alongside Singapore in the number of Asian sailors qualified for the Rio Olympics, just after Japan which has seven tickets and China with six.
Kamolwan Chanyim celebrates qualifying for the 2016 Rio Olympics in the Laser Radial women’s class.
Named Asian Champion in the Laser Radial women’s class was Pattaya based sailor Kamolwan Chanyim, a 20 year old national athlete who reigned supreme on the water and secured her Olympic berth a day before the medal races with a 20 point lead over her competition. The SEA Games 2015 gold and Asian Games 2014 bronze medalist credits former sponsor Kingdom Property among other supporters of her three-year Olympic campaign for helping her achieve her dream of being the first Thai woman to qualify for the Olympics in a sailboat similar to what HM The King used to sail.
“I thank the Sports Authority of Thailand and the Yacht Racing Association of Thailand for giving me the chance to go to Abu Dhabi for the final Olympic qualifier. I thank my father and my family for pushing me to achieve my best and cheer me up when needed. And Kingdom Property which believed in me even before I had any outstanding results abroad. Without them, I would not have had the stairs to climb to this point,” Kamolwan said.
Malaysian youth sailor Nur Shazrin Mohamad Latif won silver and her country’s first ticket to the Olympics for a female sailor as well.
In the most hotly contested event on the water, 2012 Thai Olympian Keerati Bualong went into the Laser Standard men’s medal race with the weight of the nation’s expectations on his shoulders. While Malaysian sailor Khairulnizam Mohd Afendy had virtually secured gold, Keerati only just held onto the second spot in the fleet of 41 sailors from 14 countries, with three determined Chinese and three Japanese after his ticket with a six point difference that could easily be overcome in the double points medal race. A three hour wait on the water followed, organizers waiting for wind to build enough to start a race. In the lightest of legal breezes the race began, coaches reporting Keerati rounding the first mark in a risky seventh place, recovering to third and then dropping to fourth, but a quick check of the finishing results proved he had managed to salvage silver and his second Olympic qualification.
The Windsurfing Association of Thailand’s Natthaphong Phonoppharat went into the final day of racing confident of taking the first of two Olympic tickets in the class, his closest competitors on the water having already qualified at earlier events, but not so sure of holding onto silver. A fourth place finish in the double points medal race saw him pass silver to Hong Kong, but grab hold of bronze. Two-time Thai Olympian Ek Boonsawad, now participating in more triathlons, finished 5th overall. Singaporean Leonard Ong, who finished seventh overall, won the second ticket to Rio in the RS:X Men’s.
In the RS:X Women’s event, Siripon Kaewduang-ngam had a nail-biting medal race with only one Olympic spot up for grabs. With Singapore just two points away from her week-long hold on silver, and gold likely to go to Hong Kong which had already qualified for Rio, Siripon managed to prove she has what it takes to follow in the wake of three-time windsurfing Olympian Napalai Tansai, finishing well ahead of the Singaporean to secure silver and her ticket to Rio.
Young Thai 49er sailors Don and Dylan Whitcraft had a good start to the regatta but eventually proved unable to deliver the consistency required to challenge their more senior and professional Japanese and Indian competitors. The two brothers, both Thai citizens studying at university in the USA, are now planning a full time campaign closer to qualifications for Japan 2020.
Note: For more local sailing news – Bangkok Patana students win 2016 FOBISIA Sailing Championships.