Thai athletes won eight medals, including four gold, at the recently concluded Paralympic Games in London, surpassing the expectations of even the participating athletes themselves.
Thais won single gold medals in table tennis and fencing, and two in boccia. The medal haul placed Thailand first among Association of Southeast Asian Nations countries and fifth overall in Asia.
The kingdom sent 50 disabled athletes to participate in 10 sports in the world games. Team leaders said they hoped to come away with two gold medals. They ended up with much more.
Thailand’s victorious gold medal winning 4-man boccia team.
Rungroj Thainiyom, who has muscular dystrophy, won the first gold on Sept. 2 in the men’s individual table tennis event. A four-member team led by Pattaya Tadtong scored the second gold with an impressive performance in mixed boccia. The team, which also included Visanu Huadpradit, Mongkol Jitsangiem and Watcharapol Wongsa, beat England 18-1.
Wheelchair-bound fencer Saysunee Jana took the third gold in women’s epee. Then, on the final day, Sept. 8, Tadtong scored gold again by trouncing David Smith of hosts United Kingdom 7-0 in men’s individual boccia.
Thailand’s two silver medals came from Prawat Wahoram in the 1,500-meter men’s wheelchair racing event and a four member team in the 400-meter wheelchair relay with a season-best time of 3:13.28. Prawat had been trying for his fourth consecutive gold medal.
Both the Thai team’s bronze medals were won by wheelchair-racer Konjen Saichon in the men’s 100-meter and 800-meter races.
The athletes surely won the hearts and pride of the nation, but also secured some hefty bonus money as well. Former Prime Minister Banhan Silpa-acha pledged 500,000 baht for any gold medalist, 300,000 baht for any silver medals and 200,000 baht for bronze.
Channel 3 television has also pledged to pay winning athletes one million baht per gold medal, 500,000 baht for silver and 300,000 baht for bronze.