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Thailand hoping for wushu encore : On November 16, 2006

Chomphuphuang brothers Sanchai and Angkarn won historic gold medals in the Asian Games in Busan, South Korea, four year ago. Now the Wushu Federation of Thailand hopes its fighters can pull off a similar feat in the upcoming Asiad in Doha.

No one expected Thai fighters to make an impact in Busan. However, they defied the odds to claim four medals. Apart from the two gold from Sanchai and Angkarn in the men's 56gk and 65kg san shou event, Thailand won a silver and a bronze through Metee Ponork and Wicharn Toonkratork.

In Doha, the wushu squad will be without defending champions Sanchai and Angkarn. Sanchai has a nagging knee injury that put him out of the Asiad. Angkarn decided to quit the sport to pursue his old love, boxing, in which he will be representing the country.

The WUFT brought in some new talents, especially boxers with muaythai backgrounds, to do an encore in the Middle East.

 "Our fighters have a good chance of winning gold medals," national team manager Wichian Pholsuwan said confidently.

Blue Ditsayabutr, a team staff coach, feels the Chinese would give a tough fight. "I think the Muay Thai strategies will work well for our fighters when they take on quality fighters from powerhouses such as China, Vietnam and South Korea. To train these boxers with tactics and rules of wushu is a very challenging task. I hope our fighters will come out firing in tough matches against the Chinese," said Blue.

Samart Kaphol in the 56kg category, Ruangchai Srakao in the 60kg division and Rattakampol Thongnoppakhun in the 65kg class are considered lightweights.

Kwanyuen Chantra and Prajaksilp Kaenchanbai in the 52kg and 70kg divisions represent the best hopes.

"We hope our fighters will win in the 52kg and 70kg classes. Kwanyuen recently took the combat category title in the National Games in  September, while Prajaksilp won the amateur boxing flight in South Korea three months ago," said Wichian.

"They are fully fit for the Games and their form has improved. Their defensive and offensive tactics are second to none," he added.

Wichian said Thai fighters are well prepared and rivals will be underestimating them at their own peril.

Thai squad have been going through an intense training programme under the supervision of Lui Ya, an experienced coach from China.

The team had warm-up matches against opponents from different training camps and provinces. They have been training with Pakistani fighters, who are also preparing for the Games in Doha, for three months.

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