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Thai squad get best result ever : On August 30, 2004

It's been Thailand's greatest Olympics with our athletes turning in their best performance ever in the birthplace of the modern Games.

The Thai Olympic delegation is returning home tomorrow with a haul of eight medals, three of them gold. They have far exceeded expectations after an initial target of only one gold medal each from weightlifting, taekwondo and boxing.

In Athens there were some amazing performances and unforgettable stories from the Thai athletes at the Games.

The awesome foursome of women weightlifters Udomporn Polsak, Pawina Thongsuk, Aree Wiratthavorn and Wandee Kameaim made the Kingdom proud. They won Thailand's first four medals, including one gold each from Udomporn and Pawina.

And the pint-sized Aree, a 24-year-old from Kanchanaburi, also did exceptionally well by bringing home the bronze in the 48kg category, the Kingdom's first medal on the first day of the Games.

Udomporn's exceptional effort in the 53kg event the following day also made front page headlines in every Thai newspaper as she became the first Thai woman to win an Olympic gold.

The amazing strength and power of Nakhon Ratchasima's Udomporn, who stands only 150cm tall and weighs 53kg, was one of the highlights of the Games.

Team-mate Wandee, a 26-year-old from Si Sa Ket, added another medal to the tally by winning the bronze in the 58kg category.

The plucky Pawina, in her second Olympics after a disappointing seventh in Sydney, showed her supremacy in the 75kg division to deliver the gold medal, the Kingdom's second in weightlifting in Athens.

Pawina, a 25-year-old from Surin, caused a sensation by stunning former world champions including Egyptian Nahla Mohamed and two Russians, Valentina Popova and Natalia Zalentina. She also lifted an Olympic record of 150kg in the clean and jerk.

However, credit for the women's weightlifting success should also go to Chinese head coach Zhang Jiaming, who did a great job preparing the squad for Athens.

For the Thai boxers, the trio of middleweight Suriya Prasarthinpimai, light welterweight Manas Boonjumnong and bantamweight Worapoj Petchkoom collected three more medals.

Suriya, 25, from Nakhon Ratchasima, won a bronze while Manas, a father of two, punched his way past Cuban Yudel Johnson Cedeno 17-11 in the final to win Thailand's third gold in Athens.

Worapoj suffered a loss to Cuba's Regondeaux Ortiz Guillermo in the final and won the silver medal, the last medal won by Thailand in the quadrennial sporting event.

Three medals - including one gold - is the greatest success the Amateur Boxing Association of Thailand has had at an Olympics. Congratulations should also go to the boxing squad's head coach, Cuban Juan Fontanial, who has lifted the standards of local fighters for many years.



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