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Underdog shooter Isarapa a big hit, Thai golfers inspired by Panipak

Underdog shooter Isarapa a big hit, Thai golfers inspired by Panipak

OLYMPICS: Unfancied Thai shooter Isarapa Imprasertsuk put on an impressive show at the Asaka Shooting-Shotgun Ranges to secure a surprise fourth-place finish in the women’s skeet at the Tokyo Olympics yesterday (July 26).

By Bangkok Post

Tuesday 27 July 2021, 09:21AM

The Games debutant defied the odds to finish fourth in the qualifying and then shot her way to fourth spot behind champion Amber English of the US, runner-up Diana Bacosi of Italy and third-placed Wei Meng from China.

World No.32 Isarapa, a silver medallist at the 2016 Asian Championships, earned a crack at a medal after eliminating Natalia Vinogradova of the Russian Olympic Committee in the first shoot of the final and then Germany’s Nadine Messerschmidt in the second.

In the third shoot, the Thai tied with Wei on 36 points.

As results from the qualifying round are taken into account in case of a tie, it was Wei’s remarkable 124 points to the Thai’s 120 that propelled her into the top three.

Wei’s 124 points are an Olympic record and it also equalled her own world record, achieved at the 2019 Asian Championships in Doha.

English shot a final of 56, also an Olympic record, to win the gold, followed by Bacosi (55) and Wei (46).

Isarapa’s fourth place is the best performance by a Thai skeet shooter, bettering Sutiya Jiewchaloemmit’s fifth at the 2008 Games in Beijing.

Thailand No.1 Sutiya, who had a health problem, failed make it to the final in Tokyo.

Isarapa said: “I was under no pressure at all as other competitors are all world-class shooters. I was just an underdog, and finishing fourth is beyond my expectation.”

In badminton, world No.2 mixed doubles duo Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai were handed their first defeat in Tokyo with a shock 12-21, 19-21 result against Marcus Ellis and Lauren Smith of Great Britain in their last Group B match.

The Thai duo, who won three straight tournaments on home soil in January, were nowhere near their best against the inspired Britons who came up with intense attacks and solid defence.

Despite the defeat, Dechapol and Sapsiree, who are among Thailand’s best medal hopes, moved on to the knockout stage as group runners-up.

But the loss could shatter their dream as the quarter-final match-up will be determined by drawing lots with group winners facing group runners-up.

In table tennis, Suthasini Sawettabut became the first Thai to reach the round of 16 after she upended 15th seeded Samara of Romania 4-1 (11-7, 11-6, 4-11, 11-8, 11-2) at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium.

Compatriot Orawan Paranang wasn’t so lucky after being stopped in the third round by Japanese fifth-seed Kasumi Ishikawa 2-4 (5-11, 11-5, 4-11, 11-6, 4-11, 8-11).

Jazz, Gunn in upbeat mood

Meanwhile, Thai golfers Jazz Janewattananond and Gunn Charoenkul have found added motivation ahead of the men’s golf competition at the Tokyo Olympic after compatriot Panipak Wongpattanakit’s success in the women’s taekwondo 49kg event.

Both golfers were glued to the TV screen in the Olympic Village on Saturday night when the 23-year-old Panipak delivered Thailand’s first gold medal of the Games with a victory in the final seconds against Spain’s Adriana Cerezo Iglesias.

“Gunn and I watched Thailand take gold, and it was pretty amazing even watching it on TV,” said Jazz, who is a six-time Asian Tour winner.

“We were like, ‘Oh my God, this is happening and we’re getting a medal.’ It kind of kickstarted our emotions a little bit and we’re now thinking it’s possible even in our sport to win a medal and let’s go do it.”

Jazz, 25, and Gunn, 29, are making their Olympic debuts at Kasumigaseki Country Club starting on Thursday where they hope to land Thailand’s first-ever medal in the men’s golf competition. Five years ago in Rio, Kiradech Aphibarnrat tied for fifth and Thongchai Jaidee finished 15th.

Jazz, who is ranked 145th in the world, said being amongst other Olympians has been an amazing experience so far.

“It’s pretty surreal. It didn’t hit me until pretty much arriving at the Games Village and walking around, going to the gym and walking to the recreation centre. It really hit me that I’m really one of the Olympians now. Back in the day, golf wasn’t in the Olympics, so I kind of had to pinch myself that I’m here now and representing Thailand. The dream is to get the gold but if you say ‘Jazz, you can go home now with any medal’, I’ll gladly take it,” Jazz said.

Gunn, a two-time winner on PGA Tour Series-China and a regular on the Japan Golf Tour, said Panipak’s last-gasp victory in the martial arts event was awe-inspiring.

“We were sitting on our couch and there were three Thai guys watching Thailand vs Spain and it was kind of scary at the same time as there were quite a few Spain athletes behind us! We kind of won gold in the last 15 seconds and overtook Spain by one point. It shows it can be done,” said Gunn.

“The Olympics is big in our home country,” Gunn added. “It’s also my first time representing my national team so I’m really proud and happy to be here. Not everybody gets a chance to compete in the Olympics. It’s massive. Everyone back home holds the Olympics higher than the majors. I’m just humbled to be here.”

Jazz competed in the 2010 Asia Pacific Amateur Championship at Kasumigaseki as a 14-year-old but has no recollection of his time at the historic venue.

It was the same event that saw Hideki Matsuyama of Japan claim a five-stroke victory which propelled his golf career on the PGA Tour. Matsuyama, the reigning Masters champion, will carry Japan’s golden hopes this week.

“I can’t remember much but it is good to be back,” said Jazz.

“The course looks really nice, and the greens are pure. I played on the Japan Golf Tour in 2019 and hope I can use my experience for this week. It’s just amazing to have the Thai flag on my shirt. I turned professional early so I didn’t have a chance to represent Thailand too much although we do it when we’re on Tour. But it’s not quite like this. This is different. We’re playing for Thailand and words can’t explain how it feels to be doing this.”

Gunn reckons the par-71, 7,447-yard Kasumigaseki’s East course could produce low scores with how conditions are set up.

“This is a pretty long course,” he said. “With the weather forecast, the fairway might get softer and we’ll have long irons in.

“Some greens are really undulating too and you have to put your ball in the right spots to give yourself chances. The greens are soft and you can go really low. It could be 20 under and better.”

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