Sunday, August 31, 2008

Heroes cheered but we need more of them

Talking Sports

Heroes cheered but we need more of them


It was wonderful to see Thais, big and small, young and old, greet the country's Olympic heroes.

I was at the Assumption Printing Press last week when Thai pugilists Somjit Jongjohor and Manus Boonjumnong were fighting in the finals in Beijing.

I was amazed at the keen interest that was being displayed by everyone, largely members of the distaff side. In between their work, they came out, relaying the points each boxer had scored in the fights.

That shows the keen interest all Thais have in sports. And when I came out on the road, there were very few cars, but all restaurants and shops, where the television sets were open, were packed with people watching and cheering the Thai fighters.

With so much interest that's being shown for not only boxing but all sports, why is it that the country's performances did not match the same keen interest that was being shown by all Thais?

That's the question I have kept asking myself and my friends for years.

At every Olympic Games since the late Payao Poontarat won Thailand's first-ever medal, a bronze, in Montreal until now Thais have been doing well.

They have displayed tremendous talent and ability. They have matched sportsmen and sportswomen of many nations, but down the years, that capability and enthusiasm have not been translated into good results.

It is true, from boxing, Thai interest has spread to weightlifting, taekwondo and very soon the Kingdom's badminton players will be knocking hard for Olympic success. However, I am certain, there are many other disciplines in which Thais should do well.

What's happened to the country's swimmers, track and field athletes, tennis players, sharpshooters and others? There are many capable youngsters who should be making good in the Olympics.

This is what our sports leaders must look into. It is useless qualifying for the Olympics, taking part and returning empty-handed. For years, Thai track and field athletes have qualified but many times they haven't run beyond the first round.

It's so with other disciplines.

One of the reasons is the inability of some sports officials - not giving way to young coaches and enthusiastic officials who too could play supporting roles in helping raise the standards of sports.

It's true experience and expertise are important in coaching and selecting athletes. But at the same time, new ideas and modern and advanced training methods also go a long way to produce champions.

Hence, there should be greater pool of ideas to raise the standard of Thai sports.

It is well and good to celebrate and hail the medal winners, but why not increase the number of heroes with better performances?

Look at the many new countries which shone in this year's Olympics, the several record-breakers and fresh faces we saw in Beijing. That was a strong lesson for Thailand. The Kingdom has been associated with sports for years and has unfolded several rising stars, hence, by now it should shine in many sports, instead of clinging on to a few disciplines.

Use the SEA Games to open the doors for young athletes. Use the Asian Games to build up your athletes for the Olympics and train hard for years to shine in the Olympics.

What Thai sports strongly need is a team of experts who could reason out and come up with ideas on how to improve and raise standards. Athletes should also be sent out for specialised training.

In the late 1970s, Thai athletes went out and trained in Germany and took part in competitions. As a result, many, especially Thai women, shone.

That's how the country's women produced outstanding performances in the 1978 Asian Games. But thereafter, they haven't done well.

Look at the country's swimming. Ratchaniwan Bulakul and later Rattapong Srisanont shone in the Asian Games. After their time, only a few Thai swimmers have been in the headlines internationally.

In tennis, we haven't seen the likes of Panomkorn Pladcheurnil, Sombat Eau-mongkol, Sudhasinee Sirikiya, Chareuk Hengrasamee and others for a long time.

Some come and go, but there hasn't been any consistency.

Hence, it is time a strong sensible study is made about the progress of sports and useful decisions are taken to ensure the Kingdom's athletes do shine internationally.

A start must be made from the next Asian Games. Thailand should do its best to excel in all sports.

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