Thailand kicks on at SEA Games

PALEMBANG - Thailand's taekwondo and sepak takraw teams lived up to expectations yesterday as the Kingdom retained its second place overall in the 26th SEA Games.

Thai sepak takraw players reigned supreme in the regu threesomes, with the women's side thrashing arch-rivals Vietnam 3-0 to claim the Games crown for the sixth consecutive time and the men crushing hosts Indonesia 3-0 to win their 12th Games gold.

In taekwondo, fresh from their sweep all four gold medals on Sunday, Thai exponents continued their great form to win three more gold medals of the six at stake yesterday. Chutchawal Khaola-or, the Guangzhou Asian Games fin-weight gold medallist, outclassed unfancied Burmese Naing Dwe Faq 4-1, while flyweight Apichaya Chaikaew crushed Vietnam's Truong Thi Nho 11-1. Guangzhou Asian Games bantamweight gold medallist Sarita Pongsri stunned Indonesian Siska Pernata Sa 3-1.

But there was also sorrow in the Thai camp after Beijing Olympic silver medallist Buttree Puedpong lost in the first round to end her career in disappointment. An ongoing knee injury was behind her earlier decision to retire after the SEA Games.

Cyclist Chanpeng Nontasin, who earlier this year won Thailand's first ever women's time trial gold at the Asian Championships, proved that she remains the strongest in Southeast Asia by winning the 26.4km individual time trial yesterday in an impressive time of one hour, 17 minutes, 23.02 seconds. Indonesian Yanthie Fuchianty and Singaporean Chan Siew Kheng Di took home silver and bronze medals respectively.

Veteran fencer Nontapat Panchan, 30, thrashed Suppakorn Sritang-orn 15-9 in an all-Thai final for a one-two finish for the Kingdom in the men's individual foil event, while Vietnamese Tran Thi Len stunned the hosts' Isnawaty Sir Idar 15-9 to take the women's individual epee crown.

At the shooting range inside Palembang's Jakabaring Sports Complex, Thai shooters missed out on gold but managed to bag three silver from three events. Vitchuda Pichitkan fired an aggregate 592 points to claim silver in the women's 50m rifle prone event, one point short of gold winner Maharani Ardy from Indonesia.

Laos's Xayyavong Khamla emerged as the surprise winner in the women's 10m running target event with a haul of 367 points, leaving Thailand's Thidarat At-takit to take home silver with 356 points.

In the men's 10m air pistol, Vietnam's Hoang Xuan Vinh fired an aggregate 675.30 points to capture gold, with Thailand's Noppadon Sutiviruch (674.90) and Vietnam's Tran Quoc Cuong (671.10) taking silver and bronze medals.

Meanwhile, Thailand ruled the roost in the attention-grabbing track and field competition by plundering six out of 13 gold medals at stake on Sunday.

Talented Jamras Rittidet and Wallapa Punsoongnoen gave the Kingdom a clean sweep in the men's 110m and women's 100m hurdles events. Jamras, who set the new 110m hurdles standard of 13.89 seconds at the previous Games in Vientiane two years ago, lit up the Jakabaring Main Stadium with a record-shattering run of 13.77s, while Wallapa clocked a fastest 13.51 in the women's race.

Title-holder Treewadee Yongphan successfully retained her 400m crown after covering the one-lap run in 54.13s. More Thai success came in the men's long jump when rangy Supanara Sukhasawat Na Ayutthaya produced a gold-medal leap of 7.86m to defend his title.

Thailand's Natta Nachan surprised all competitors to win the women's javelin after throwing 48.80m. Team-mate Saowalak Pettong added a bronze medal after hurling 46.73m. Chatchawal Polyiam struck more gold in his pet shot put, eclipsing his previous SEA Games standard of 17.59m established two years ago in Vientiane to set a new record of 17.74m.

A total of 10 gold medals were on offer yesterday evening, but only the men's hammer took place before press time, with the men's and women's 200m and 4x400m relay, men's high jump and javelin and women's 5,000m, shot put and triple jump yet to come.

Thitima Muangjun was the defending triple jump champion who set the Games record of 14.08m in Vientiane, while Thai sprinters swept both relay events in the previous edition.

In the swimming meet, Sunday saw Natthanan Junkrajang snatch her second Games gold after clocking 4.50.88 minutes in the 400m individual medley event, surpassing the Olympic qualifying B standard of 4.51.75m. Natthanan has now qualified for three events at next year's London Olympics - 800m freestyle, 200m freestyle and 400m individual medley.

Thai swimmers were aiming to plunder more gold last night in the women's 400m freestyle and men's 100m freestyle events.

On the tennis courts Thailand have enjoyed mixed luck, with their women's team beating Vietnam 3-0 to advance to the final against Indonesia, but their men losing a semi-final 2-1 to the Philippines.

Ratchawat wins gymnastics gold

Fresh from helping Thailand to team silver in the men's artistic gymnastics on Sunday, Ratchawat Kaewpanya returned to the Jakabaring Sports Centre yesterday and toppled his competitors to win the men's individual all-round event.