Five years after her “heartbreaking” finish at Rio where she settled for bronze, taekwondo exponent Panipak Wongpattanakit gets another chance to win a historic gold medal for Thailand on Saturday.
While a bronze medal is too good to be true for most athletes from the Kingdom, it was not enough for the then teenage warrior who had been tipped to claim the top prize at the 2016 Games.
Panipak, now 23, almost quit after returning home from her Olympic debut.
The Surat Thani native, under the guidance of national coach Choi Young-Seok, was so disheartened by her failure to win gold that she turned her back on the sport for two months.
“I had a really good chance in Rio but in a fraction of a second, I blew it. I was so disappointed and I told my coach I did not want to keep going. But after two months, I really missed taekwondo and resumed training,” Panipak said.
Now a better fighter with more experience, the 2015 and 2019 world champion is favourite in the women’s 49kg division and considered the country’s best bet for gold at Tokyo. Panipak has already downed some challengers and has Spain’s Cerezp Iglesias Adriana to contend with later today
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