Olympic medallists Tawin Hanprab and Sukanya Srisurat were yesterday named the male and female athletes of the year by the Sport Writers Association of Thailand.
From left, Tawin Hanprab, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Sukanya Srisurat and Pet-Uthong Or Kwanmuang pose with their awards. photo: Apichit Jinakul
While taekwondo fighter Tawin, who grabbed the silver medal at the 2016 Olympic Games, and weightlifter Sukanya, the 58kg gold medal winner in Rio, had long been tipped to win the sport writers’ awards, boxer Srisaket Sor Rungvisai emerged as a surprise recipient, claiming the honour in the professional athlete category.
The trio received the trophies donated by late King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Sukanya pipped her teammate Sopita Tanasan, the 48kg champion at the Rio Games, in the race to the award because of her record-setting feat at the Olympics.
Tawin defied all odds to finish second in the 58kg division, losing to China’s Zhao Shuai 6-4 in the final, but the result proved good enough to help him claim the award in the men’s category.
The Taekwondo Association of Thailand had not expected Tawin to win a medal in Rio.
Golfer Ariya Jutanugarn, who won five LPGA titles last year, had been the hot favourite to bag the professional athlete of the year award.
However, Ariya was edged out by Srisaket after he dethroned Nicaragua’s Roman Gonzalez to win the WBC super-flyweight title at New York’s iconic Madison Square Garden last month.
A 14-1 underdog, Srisaket defeated Gonzalez by a majority decision after an action-packed 12-round bout with two judges giving the Thai boxer the edge over his fancied rival and the third scoring it a draw.
It is one of the biggest upsets in recent boxing history.
According to the association, the awards went out to athletes with the best performances over a 12-month period.
Pet-Uthong Or Kwanmuang (Nattapol Nuankaew) was named the Muay Thai fighter of the year, while fencer Worakan Srinuannat and taekwondo star Panipak Wongpattanakit were named male and female youth athletes of the year.
The coach of the year award went to Aree Wiratthaworn (weightlifting), while the Weightlifting Association of Thailand was selected the sport association of the year.
The team of the year honour was awarded to Boccia’s mixed team, which took home the gold medal at the Paralympic Games in Rio last year.
Teenage wheelchair racer Pongsakorn Payae was named the disabled male athlete of the year while boccia star Subin Tipmanee took the female award.
Khunying Patama Leeswadtrakul, president of the Badminton Association of Thailand, Maj Gen Intarat Yodbangtoey, advisor to the Thai Amateur Weightlifting Association, and veteran golfer Boonchu Ruangkit were among the well-respected figures who were honoured for their contributions to the country’s sport development last night.
Athletes with outstanding performances from each sport association were also honoured. They included Ratchanok Intanon (badminton), Peamwilai Laopeam (amateur boxing), Sadom Kaewkarnjana (golf), Chanathip Songkrasin (football), Thanakorn Sangkaew (petanque), Sutiya Jiewchaloemmit (skeet shooting), Wanchai Kanjanapimai (bodybuilding) and Nitchakarn Jitnuphan (extreme sports).
The inaugural Olympic and Paralympic hero awards, given out to athletes who took home medals in Rio last year, were presented to a total of 23 athletes.