Asian Beach Games: Athletes, Muay Thai fighters keep Thailand on a high

A clean sweep of three gold medals in beach athletics and the in-form Muay Thai fighters yesterday helped Thailand maintain their stranglehold on the medal stakes on the penultimate day of the 4th Asian Beach Games.

Talented Thitima Muangjan, the triple jump bronze medallist at the Guangzhou Asian Games in 2010, made the country proud by producing an impressive jump of 5.52 metres to hand Thailand the day's first gold in the women's long jump event.

National sprinters Phatsorn Jaksuninkorn and Nongnuch Sanrat, who helped Thailand win the 4x100m relay at the Guangzhou Games, gave the country the second gold in the women's 4x60m relay in 29.97 seconds. The men's relay team, strengthened by the presence of SEA Games triple gold medallist Jirapong Meenapra, gave the hosts the third gold with a time of 27.17 seconds.

Thailand's fourth gold came from the women's handball team, which downed Taiwan 17-12 13-12 in the final showdown.

Muay Thai, which had 16 gold medals up for grabs yesterday, kicked off the finals with the hosts capturing the first three gold medals through Rattanaphon Hanphan in the women's 48kg light flyweight, Suepphong Phromduea in the men's 48kg light flyweight and Armon Phonkratok in the men's 61kg flyweight events at press time.

Thailand's beach sepak takraw teams also marched into the finals of both men's and women's categories, with the former thrashing Laos 2-0 and the latter outclassing Indonesia 2-0 in the semi-finals.

In the beach volleyball competition, title-holders Varapatsorn Radarong and Tanarattha Udomchavee, silver medallists at the Incheon Asian Games, came a step closer to making it two-in-a-row. They outclassed Yupa Phokrongploy and Usa Tenpaksee 22-20 21-13 in an all-Thai semi-finals and will go up against Kazakhstan in today's final. Reigning champions Indonesia struggled to beat Qatar 2-1 (14-21 21-17 15-13) to advance to the men's final clash against Iran.

"I'm very happy to reach the final. We played well against Yupa and Usa. We have never lost to them and that's why we played with plenty of confidence. In our final match against Kazakhstan, we won't underestimate them. We beat them before and they also did likewise. We have to play to our strengths and do not make many mistakes. I hope the local crowd would give us the morale support, we are ready to do our best," Varapatsorn said.

At press time, hosts Thailand had captured 48 gold, 32 silver and 32 bronze medals. Defending overall champions China are a distant second with 15 gold, 10 silver and 20 bronze medals, while South Korea (9-12-11) and Japan (7-5-6) were in third and fourth places respectively.