SEA Games:Thailand boxers among the few world-class athletes

SEA Games:Thailand boxers among the few world-class athletes
Thai boxers Saylom Ardee (right) and Chatchai Butdee (below) training on the driveway of the Mingalar Thiri Hotel in Naypyidaw. The duo headline a 10-member Thailand squad eyeing a seven-gold haul at the SEA Games in Myanmar.

NAYPYIDAW - On the driveway of the Mingalar Thiri Hotel in Naypyidaw, Thai boxers Chatchai Butdee and Saylom Ardee were being put through their training paces.

Saylom shrieked like a young Bruce Lee as he danced excitedly and threw his fists about.

Chatchai, on the other hand, wearing his headphones and a contemplative gaze, exhaled silently as he punched.

They may be worlds apart in temperament but both boxers are part of only a handful of world-class athletes competing at the Myanmar SEA Games.

Most of the region's world beaters have given the biennial competition a miss, for varying reasons. Badminton stars Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia - the world No. 1 - and Indonesians Tommy Sugiarto (No.5) and Boonsak Ponsana (No.7) have decided to focus on the Superseries Finals, which began in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

Others such as Thai world No.2 shuttler Ratchanok Intanon are out injured, while Singapore's 2012 Olympic bronze medallist paddler Feng Tianwei has given up her place to allow younger talents a chance to shine. For Chatchai and Saylom, who are ranked world No.6 and No.4 in their respective weight categories, answering their country's call comes naturally.

Said flyweight (52kg) Chatchai, 28, a bronze medallist at October's World Amateur Boxing Championships: "When Thailand wants me to fight, I fight.

"This Games is more than a competition. It's about togetherness and friendship.

"The people in Thailand watch the competition. They cheer us on and I am happy to compete."

Along with lightweight (60kg) Saylom, 27 and a two-time SEA Games gold medallist (2007 and 2009), the duo headline a 10-member squad eyeing a seven-gold haul in Naypyidaw.

The nine-day boxing contest started on Saturday and both Thai pugilists are through to tomorrow's semi-finals.

Said Saylom, who will face Malaysia's Alnasrul Osman: "I am confident of winning the gold medal."

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