ASIAN GAMES 2010 Day 1 – Double success for Thailand

Thais were heroes of the day with two upsets in both the men’s and women’s team competition at the Guangzhou Asian Games.  Salakjit Ponsana led her team-mates to victory over […]

Thais were heroes of the day with two upsets in both the men’s and women’s team competition at the Guangzhou .  Salakjit Ponsana led her team-mates to victory over Japan while her brother Boonsak and his friends made it historical for Thailand, ending a 30-year unbeaten record against Malaysia.

By Raphael Sachetat, live from Guangzhou. Photos: Badmintonphoto (live)

It might have been the last match and the Tian He stadium might have been deserted by most of its spectators – China having beaten Hong Kong in no time 3-0 – there was a lot of noise coming from the stands. The whole Thailand team was cheering for its 20-year-old rookie Suppanyu Avihingsanon (pictured), who was about to conclude the biggest upset of the day: Thailand was 2-2 against Malaysia in the overall tie, with one game up for their team-mate against another rookie – Liew Daren who, however had much more pressure to cope with, Malaysia being expected to reach the semi-final stage.

From the body language of the two players, the outcome was clear. Liew’s shoulders were down while his opponent had his head up, all fired up after each point, helped by the loud cheer and dancing from his team mates. In straight games, it was all over, 21-16, 21-16 for the Thai, putting Malaysia to shame.

Boonsak Ponsana (pictured) had led his team on the right path. The Thai wonder, having failed to beat Chong Wei in 7 of their previous 8 meetings, was clearly on top of his game, even if both shuttlers had things to worry about. Ponsana had had a sore neck for the past few days while Chong Wei mentioned a fever to one of the local reporters. Nevertheless, it was the Thai who showed more fighting spirit towards the end of the game, to clinch the first point 9-21, 21-10, 21-19.

Koo and Tan delivered a very solid performance to put back Malaysia in the tie before Hafiz took the lead for Malaysia over Saensomboonsuk. The second surprise, however, saw Mak and Tan unable to wrap it up for Malaysia, losing in a close three games tie to Isara and Jongjit before Avihingsason nailed it for Thailand and saw Boonsak jump barefoot on top of his head, soon joined by the rest of the team.

It’s a major surprise for us,” said coach Songphol. “We never expected to be able to beat Malaysia, who were one of the favourites. We were very lucky. And when Boonsak won his match, we begun to think we had a chance after all,” added the coach.

We shouldn’t have lost to Thailand. I’m not happy,” said Misbun Sidek, the singles coach for Malaysia. “It’s been a long time since we lost to Malaysia and we were hoping for Lee Chong Wei to win his match. We could have then won 3/0. We lost our momentum in the strategy today and Chong Wei’s loss affected the players emotionally.

Women winners too

This stunning upset over Malaysia didn’t come on its own, as the Thai girls had created somehow an upset just as big by beating former Uber Cup silver medallists Japan. And it started a similar way for Thailand with an upset from Salakjit Ponsana over Eriko Hirose. The win in itself wasn’t so surprising- Ponsana had, after all, been a semi-finalist in the most recent Super Series in France. The surprise came with the score of 21-7, 21-18: quite disappointing for Hirose, who has assured already her spot in the Super Series Finals thanks to a great season.

Logically, Maeda and Suetsuna made it one all, but it wasn’t enough as Porntip Buranaprasertsuk beat Ai Goto and the second Thai pair – much more experienced than the better ranked Amitrapai/Aroonkesorn – Kunchala Voravichitchaikul and Saralee Thoungthongkam (pictured above) took it home against a scratch pair of Reiko Shiota / Mizuki Fujii (pictured). The former one had been preferred to Fujii’s usual partner Kakiiwa. Yet the chemistry didn’t work and it was Thailand who stunned Japan 3-1 to scoop their ticket for the semi-finals.

It was unexpected for us to play against Reiko Shiota, but somehow, it was good because she may be very good with her strokes, yet she lacks power and that suited our game today. We now hope to get a medal for the Thai people now,” said Saralee Thoungthongkam.

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Raphaël Sachetat

About Raphaël Sachetat

Raphael is the Chief Editor of Badzine International. He is the founder of the website together with Jean François Chauveau. After many years writing for the BWF and many publications around the world about badminton, he now leads a team of young and dynamic writers for Badzine.