Thais expecting gold rush at Beach Games

Hosts Thailand's target of 40 gold medals in the 4th Asian Beach Games is still within reach despite Thai spikers' lack of success in the first two days of competition ahead of the opening ceremony at Sapan Hin Sports Centre today.

The host athletes had been favourites to win 51 gold medals, but the Sports Authority of Thailand (SAT) has trimmed expectations to 44 golds. Thai chef-de-mission Thana Chaiprasit, who cited the previous edition in China, where Thailand captured 13 gold, 9 silver and 6 bronze medals, only one gold medal short of overall champions China, said that as the hosts Thailand had the opportunity to clinch some 40 gold medals.

Nineteen golds were up for grabs on the first two days, including 12 on Wednesday, but Thailand have yet to open their tally. However, they are expected to fare better after today's opening ceremony. Thailand's "goldmine" sports are beach takraw, woodball, extreme sports, muay thai, petanque and aeronautics.

Thai-Czech Jiri George Macak, who captured three golds in powered paraglider at the previous Games, will carry the flag for the Thai delegation today. Privy Councillor Surayuth Chulanont will preside over the opening ceremony, which Association of National Olympic Committees president Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah will attend as guest of honour.

Gulbadam wins gold

The Olympic Council of Asia has dropped the women's 4x60m relay run and women's high jump because of a lack of entrants.

Meanwhile, Sambo martial artist Babamuratova Gulbadam from Turkmenistan captured the first gold of the Games, beating Kazakhstan's Leila Konuspayeva 4-0 in the final of the women's 52kg on Wednesday.

Thailand won their first medal when Supatra Nanong took bronze in the Sambo women's 72kg competition.

At press time yesterday, Mongolia, powered by the strong sambo exponents, led medal standings with five golds, followed by the UAE with three. Pakistan were third with two gold while Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and South Korea shared one gold apiece.

Hosts Thailand had claimed one silver, from Natdanai Netthip in the men's Over-90kg ju-jitsu, and four bronze medals to trail in eighth position.

Today, two gold medals will be at stake in the woodball men's and women's fairway events, while four more will be on offer in the air sports. Hosts Thailand will take on either Japan or Kuwait in the final of the men's flag football event. Thailand beat China 50-13 in yesterday's semi-finals to book a spot in today's final.

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