Phannapa Harnsujin finally overcame her own demons after she dethroned world No 1 Tatiana Kudashova of Russia to take the women’s 53 kg gold medal at the World Taekwondo Championships in Manchester, England, on Sunday.
The 21-year-old Bangkokian relied on her precise attacking skills to lead from start to finish, beating the two-time European champion 20-10 and claim her biggest win to date.
“I finally pulled it off,” said the 2013 SEA Games gold medallist in the 49kg category. Phannapa has in the past beentouted as a future force in Thai taekwondo but never lived up to expectations in the big events.
“I never give up and never let myself [crumble] under pressure. I keep practising hard and follow the instruction of the coach [Choi Young Seok] who will set up a game plan for me. I’m very proud to win this gold medal,” added Phannapa, the second Thai champion at the Manchester competition after Panipak Wongpattanakit’s triumph in the women’s 49kg division the day before.
Phannapa, who has been with the national team since 2013, is now eyeing a second trip to the Olympics after her debut at Rio 2016, when she crashed out in the opening round to Eva Calvo of Spain.
“I will have to keep working hard to qualify for the Olympics for the second time,” she added.
It is the first time Thailand has won two golds in a single World Championships, something that came as a surprise to long-time national coach Choi Young Seok from South Korea.
“Actually we have several young talented athletes but some are under pressure and get excited during competition. They all work very hard. If they can overcome the mental obstacle, they will do well,” said Choi, who has been with the national team for 17 years.
The South Korean was so overwhelmed that he carried the Thai national flag along with Phannapa and ran on the stage, something he would normally let his athletes do alone when they celebrate a victory.
Asked when he would next be seen repeating the celebration, he replied: “Next year in the Olympic Games.”