18-year-old's new goal: World No 1

THAILAND - Newly crowned world champion Ratchanok Intanon could not have been happier to receive bouquets of flowers from the Royal family, especially of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit.

And the young star has set new goals - to become the world No 1 and win a gold medal at the Olympics.

The 18-year-old caused a sensation around the country on Sunday when she stunned world No 1 Li Xuerui of China in the BWF World Championships women's singles final in Guangzhou. She became the youngest winner of the women's singles title and the first ever from Thailand.

The teenager, who will reach No 2 in the rankings this week, was presented with a "Grateful Child" shield from Her Royal Highness Princess Soamsawali at Amporn Gardens before receiving her most valuable present from the Queen via a royal representative at the Badminton Association of Thailand (BAT) headquarters.

"I'm deeply grateful for Their Majesties' gracious kindness and continuing support of Thai sports. I'm even more inspired to work harder and try to win more tournaments," said an overwhelmed Ratchanok.

She was also granted royal bouquets from His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and Her Royal Highness Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana.

"I want to be No 1 in the world within one or two years and to win the Olympics gold medal at Rio de Janeiro," said Ratchanok, who was tied up with many activities yesterday including posing for Praew magazine, attending a talk show on Channel 3 before having dinner with her family and godmother Kamala Thongkorn, the owner of Banthongyord Badminton School, where she trains.

Ratchanok or May, as she is called by her family and friends, said she would buy a refrigerator and a washing machine for her mother Kamphan as a present for Mother's Day.

Kamphan, who is a worker in a sweet factory, said she wanted her daughter to remain the same and keep working hard to reach the top. "I always taught her to be humble as she was not from a rich family like other kids. I told her to be well behaved. She is a very well disciplined girl. That's why she has got to this stage," she said.

Thailand hails teen

Thai media cheered the teen star with a flurry of ecstatic headlines as the nation celebrated its first gold at the badminton worlds.

Ratchanok, who still has braces on her teeth, sprang a shock when she defeated Chinese Olympic champion Li Xuerui 22-20 18-21 21-14 on Sunday in Li's own backyard.

Pictures of the smiling teenager gripping her trophy after the showdown in Guangzhou adorned almost every front page as Thailand revelled in a rare ray of golden glory.

"Thai badminton roars, May swats China and collects the championship," proclaimed the Thai language Thai Rath, referring to her nickname.

"May - a historic champion. The whole nation is elated," Siam Sport said.

Ratchanok's victory over Li, also aiming for her first world title, broke China's stranglehold on the championship. It is also a fairytale win for the teen, whose career started at the age of five when the owner of the factory where her parents worked sent her to train at a nearby badminton academy.

The teenager, regarded as one of the best young players in the sport, supports her family through her sporting career.

Kamala, who owns both the factory and the badminton school, attended the final.

"This is another triumph - we did not expect that success would be this fast," she told AFP. "I am so proud of her," the 54-year-old Kamala said.