Thai role model Panipak Wongpattanakit fulfilled her dream of becoming an Olympic champion in the Korean martial art at the Tokyo 2020 Games on Saturday. Although she has the nickname ‘Tennis’, taekwondo is the sport that she excels in.

The 23 year old won against Spain’s Adriana Cerezo Iglesias 11-10 in the women’s 49kg final to become Thailand’s first winner at Tokyo 2020 and also the country’s first Olympic gold medallist in taekwondo.

The journey was not always smooth sailing as Tennis recanted: “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.”

“I often told myself, ‘You have to go back [to the Olympics] and win ” said Panipak.

Panipak was born in a sports-mad family, where her father Sirichai participated in football, athletics and swimming and her late mother Vantana was a swimmer. She herself tried several sports including swimming, volleyball, and athletics but she found her calling when she took up taekwondo.

She has since won gold medals at the 2014 Youth Olympics, 2015 and 2019 world championships, 2018 Asian Games and 2020 Olympics.

Her success in Tokyo is also a dream come true for Taekwondo Association of Thailand (TAT) President Pimol Srivikorn, who has served as TAT President since 2007. Pimol Srivikorn has played an instrumental role at our UTS events in Thailand and was present for our Bangkok Urban Youth Tournament pre-pandemic. The event included over 80 youth teams who had the opportunity to play and compete in futsal, 3X3 basketball, traditional muaythai, sepaktakraw, chess and badminton. The tournament format was mixed teams coming from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds including migrant and refugee youth.

The World Taekwondo President Chungwon Choue also attended the finals and with him were the renowned World Taekwondo National Demonstration Team who flew over from Korea and included native Panipak. The team led by Panipak demonstrated the elegant martial art of Taekwondo which thrilled the youth and inspired many.

President Chungwon Choue shared his thoughts at the event stating: “It is a pleasure to see Thailand’s challenged youth given opportunities and hope through initiatives such as this. We will be happy to participate in the next edition of this tournament and congratulate UTS for such a strong collaboration at the service of youth development.”

With the rise of talented athletes such as Panipak Wongpattanakit, youth around the world are encourage not to give up on their dreams, to keep active and to enjoy sports.