Natthanan Junkrajang, one of the most decorated swimmers competing at the 28th Southeast Asian Games, will take her final lap in the pool on Wednesday night in the 4x100m medley relay.
The 29-year-old Thai national clinched the Silver for the 200m Freestyle, 4x100m Freestyle Relay, and the 4x200m Freestyle Relay.
Despite her achievements, the swimmer comes across as approachable and down-to-earth. She was shocked to realise that one of her toughest competitors, Quah Ting Wen of Singapore, failed to qualify for the 200m Freestyle Finals by 0.45 seconds.
"We are swimmers and we are competitors," Natthanan says. "But we are also friends. We want everyone to be successful."
More than medals
One of the things Natthanan says she will miss most about competitive swimming is the camaraderie amongst her compatriots. She has became close friends with many of them over the years, keeping in touch through Facebook. Once, Natthanan even acted as a tour guide for Singaporean swimmer Amanda Lim when she visited Thailand.
Having swum for 21 years and competed for an illustrious 19, Natthanan finds it difficult to pinpoint a significant milestone in her career. She jokes, "Every time I swim and win, that is my favourite moment!" But she adds more seriously, "In my last SEA Games here, everything is memorable. Next time, when I look back, they (the memories) will look very happy."
Be Confident and Have Heart
Natthanan flashing her trademark smile. "I think my smile can make everyone remember me." Photo credit: Yu Pei Fern
The next lap for Natthanan sees her embarking on a coaching career. Together with her current coach, she will be coaching future Thai swimmers. She is determined to elevate the level of Thai swimmers in international waters.
"Nowadays it is really hard for Thai swimmers. We have remained the same standard as the past few years, but almost all swimmers in other countries have improved so much. I think maybe we can reach their level in four or five years."
For upcoming swimmers, the experienced athlete gives this piece of advice: "I hope that future swimmers can be confident and have heart. I think it is important for swimming - they have to have a lot of passion, so that when they come for competitions, they can fight."
As for how Natthanan wants to be remembered, she grins, "Just look at my smile. I think my smile can make everyone remember me."
We wish her all the best in her future pursuits! This author of this article is a volunteer content producer with Team Nila. For more content produced by Team Nila, please head to the 28th SEA Games Social Wall.