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Thailand: Olympic Boxing Defeat Disappoints Fans

This post is part of our special coverage of the London 2012 Olympics.  

The 2012 London Olympic Games was a disappointment for Thailand. Since 1996, the Southeast Asian country has won at least one gold medal at the Olympics. This year, Thailand won two silvers and a bronze.

Compared to its neighbors, however, Thailand did relatively well. Indonesia and Malaysia each snatched a silver and a bronze, while Singapore managed to gain two bronze medals. Others left the Games empty-handed.

Sirikaew Pimsiri, locally known as “Nong Taew,” was a favorite to win in the Olympic Games. She took home a silver for women's weigh lifting (58kg). A native of Khon Kaen province, she brought such pride and glory to her home town that there have been talks about naming a local street after her. Upon returning home she was also presented with the ‘Most Grateful Daughter’ award on Mother's Day from provincial authorities.

Chanatip Sonkham, or “Nong Lek,” grabbed a bronze for women's taekwondo (49 kg.). Nong Lek had a lead in the semi-final match, but lost her way towards the end resulting in her defeat. Nonetheless, she was still dubbed “a heroine” and was also paraded through her home town, Pattalung, as she returned from London.

Thai boxer Kaeo Pongprayoon. Photo from Wikipedia.

The most controversial medal winner of all was Men Light Fly's Boxing, Kaeo Pongprayoon, who took a silver.  Kaeo's defeat came as a surprise to most Thai fans who couldn't believe that the Thai boxer was adjudged as the loser in the fight. Zou, 31, defended the title he won in Beijing four years ago, but he won the final match this year courtesy of a controversial decision. Even the crowd at London's ExCel Arena jeered the final score while Kaeo wept openly in the ring, according to a reportof the Bangkok Post.

The defeat caused a storm among Thai netizens who took to various social media outlets to vent their frustration and disbelief.

“I know why Kaeo cried…I watched it and I cried myself. I'm so angry,” said Jeb Jai Wah on Sanook Sport web board.

Angry fans took their message online. This poster appeared in English on www.keelamun.com:

“Thank you very much for breaking his heart, ‘Kaeo Ponprayoon,’ the man who gave his life for boxing. He wait this chance for more than 10 years to make his dream come true but you just destroy it in 9 minutes of fight. Everyone know that he won this fight. But no, not you, AIBA you made him lose. You are very unfair. AIBA you just destroyed respect and the spirit of boxing” from Boxing Fans.

Despite the disappointing overall performance, Thai Olympians are still praised by the public and the media for their “heroic acts” for the nation. After all, the Olympics, in the eyes of many, is about sacrifice, dedication and hard work. Olympians are thus often paraded by the state authorities as exemplary role models.

Apart from the cheers and the accolades, medal winners were also showered with financial awards, largely from private donations. Nong Taew took in an estimated 15 million baht ($500,000). Kaeo is looking to take in at least 24 million baht ($800,000), while getting promoted to sub lieutenant by the army chief.

This post is part of our special coverage of the London 2012 Olympics.  

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