Millions on offer if Thai boxer Kaew wins gold-medal bout

A large screen was set up near the house of Thai boxer Kaew Pongprayoon in Kamphaeng Phet ahead of his fight for a gold medal last night.

A call for honours for all national athletes was the social media sentiment yesterday. It came in the lead-up to the Olympic gold medal fight last night between boxer Kaew Pongprayoon against Zou Shiming from China.

More gold and money was promised to the Thai light flyweight if he wins the gold medal in the final showdown. The bout was set to take place at 2.30am.

Before the fight, Thailand had won one silver medal, from Pimsiri Sirikaew's weightlifting in the 58kg class, and one bronze, won by Chanatip Sonkham in the under 49kg taekwondo class.

On Twitter and Facebook yesterday, many people talked about supporting and honouring national athletes whether they win medals or not. They quoted former Olympian Somjit Jongjorhor who said, "When I lost and won no medal, I came back to Thailand and it was like I didn't have a place to stand."

Awards promised from the government include Bt5 million (S$197,790) cash upfront and Bt5 million paid as monthly instalments. Plus, sponsors of the Thailand Boxing Association announced they would give Bt50 million if Kaew, 32, wins the gold medal. He would also be promoted from master sergeant first class to a second lieutenant.

Other private companies also sought to reward him. For example, former deputy finance minister Warathep Rattanakorn yesterday announced he would give Kaew 10 baht of gold from a fund raised from business people. Owners of a rice mill and the owner of a dessert factory said they would also give five baht of gold each if he wins. Likewise, the Kamphaeng Phet governor said he would give the fighter Bt200,000 if he won.

If he loses, and takes the silver medal, he will get Bt15 million.

There was a festive mood in Kaew's hometown yesterday. His mother Mali has been busy giving interviews to the media and, with her husband, welcoming guests who gave moral support at their house.

Kaew's wife Tharathip went to her hometown in Ayutthaya yesterday to pay homage to the monument of Nai Khanom Tom, a legendary Thai boxer, to bring good luck for her husband. She said that yesterday morning she had brought mock gold bars and gold coins into her house as lucky charms. She was confident her husband would win the gold.

According to Government House's website Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra will preside over a welcome dinner for Thai team athletes on Tuesday at Siam Paragon, for both those attending the London 2012 Olympics and those who attended the Asian Beach Games in China's Haiyang in June.

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