Pongsakorn and a large number of teammates arrived in Phuket yesterday (Sept 6) to enter 14-day quarantine as required by the government’s COVID-19 protocols.
They were greeted by government, sports and local officials as well as well-wishers at a colourful ceremony. The athletes received bouquets of flowers from HRH Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana Rajakanya, a former national athlete in badminton and equestrian.
They were the second group of Thailand’s Paralympic delegation to return from Tokyo with the last members scheduled to arrive in the southern province today.
The Thai team won five gold, five silver and eight bronze medals at Tokyo 2020 which ended on Sunday.
Before the Tokyo event, the Sports Authority of Thailand predicted its athletes would get four to six gold medals.
In the end, they claimed the same number of total medals, 18, they had won in the 2016 Games but the Rio campaign remains the country’s most successful with six gold, six silver and six bronze medals.
Pongsakorn, 24, claimed golds in the men’s 100m, 400m and 800m T53 events, making him the first Thai to win three titles at one Games.
“I am glad that I helped enhance the country’s reputation. I am proud of myself that I also broke the records in all three events I entered at the Tokyo Games,” the Khon Kaen native said.
“My next target is certainly at Paris 2024. I have to prepare myself from now to make Thais happy again.”
Pongsakorn has now won five Paralympic gold medals, two short of the country’s record set by fellow wheelchair racer Prawat Wahoram who has bagged seven.
Pongsakorn will receive B21.6 million in reward from the government for winning three titles in Tokyo.
Under the National Sports Development Fund’s bonus scheme for Paralympians, a champion will get B7.2mn, a silver winner B4.8mn, and a bronze medallist B3mn.
Asked what he would do with the money, he said: “I don’t know at the moment. I just want to take a rest and then start training.”
Thailand’s other gold medallists at the 2020 Paralympics are wheelchair racer Athiwat Paeng-Nuea, who won the 100m T54 title, and the boccia team, who were successful in the defence of their title in the BC1/BC2 category.
Wheelchair fencer Saysunee Jana was Thailand’s first medallist at Tokyo 2020 after she took bronze in the individual epee.
Badminton players Sujirat Pookkham and Amnouy Wetwitan earned Thailand’s 18th and last medal on the final day of competition.
The 35-year-old Sujirat also won the women’s singles silver in the sport that made its Paralympic debut in Tokyo.
Other Thai medallists are boccia stars Watcharaphon Vongsa and Pornchok Larpyen (runners-up, individual BC2 and individual BC4), wheelchair racers Prawat Wahoram (silver, 1,500m T54), Putharet Khongrak (bronzes, 1,500m and 5,000m T54) and Saichon Konjen (bronze, 800m T54), table tennis athlete Rungroj Thainiyom (bronze, men’s singles Class 6), taekwondo fighter Khwansuda Phuangkitcha (bronze, women’s K44 49kg), and the men’s table tennis team (bronze, Class 3).
Thailand first took part in the Paralympics in 1984 and have since won 24 gold, 30 silver and 88 bronze medals.