July 27, 2012 00:00 By Anuchit Kullawanich
Thailand's Olympic gold hunt starts tomorrow when weightlifters Panida Khamsri and Siriwimon Pramongkol battle it out in the women's 48kg category for the first medals on offer in the London Games.
The weightlifting competition will be held at 3.30pm local time (9.30pm Bangkok time) at the ExCeL (Exhibition Centre London), the largest competition venue at the Games, with five different arenas.
A field of 14 weightlifters from 12 countries will compete in the women’s 48kg event, including two apiece from Thailand and Japan.
However, the favourite is China’s Wang Mingjuan, who landed world titles in 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2009 and has broken several world records in the category.
Her teammate Tian Yuan captured the gold at the world meet last year in Paris, but China decided Wang had the better chance of winning the first gold on offer in London for China.
Another Chinese weightlifter, Chen Xiexia, won the gold medal in Beijing four years’ ago, setting a new Olympic record of 212kg. The world record of 217kg still belongs to China’s Yang Lian, established in 2006 at a world meet in the Dominican Republic.
Thailand’s weightlifting head coach Apinya Dutthuyawat said yesterday that the sevenstrong Thai team have been training intensively and are 100percent fit.
“They are improving all the time. After arriving in London on Tuesday, we had our first training session at the ExCel,” Apinya said.
“Guangzhou Asian Games gold medallist Wang Mingjuan is the favourite for gold in the women’s 48kg class. It’s very difficult for the other lifters to beat the formidable Chinese. Wang’s record is 10kg better than Panida’s. I think Panida and Siriwimon have a fighting chance to win silver and bronze medals.
“Two Japanese, Hiromi Miyake and Honami Mizuochi, as well as Uzbekistan’s Marina Sisoeva will be strong competition for our girls. But both of them are in fine form and have bettered their normal standard by 20kgs,” she added.
Meanwhile, HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn left for London yesterday to attend the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony today. She will grant an audience to the Olympic Committee of Thailand president General Yuthasak Sasiprapa and the Thai athletes’ delegation at the Holiday Inn London.
Yuthasak said the Thai athletes were brimming with determination after receiving supportive messages from several quarters.
“PM Yingluck Shinawatra has a busy schedule and cannot join the opening ceremony. However, she told us to give all Thai athletes morale support. She would like to see our delegation return with gold medals. The athletes have her full support,” said Yuthasak.
Meanwhile, Sports Authority governor Kanokphan Jullakasem is hopeful that Thailand can bag at least two gold medals.
“We have a strong chance of winning golds in taekwondo and weightlifting, while the boxing and skeet shooting could spring surprises,” he said.