BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai shuttler Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk is aiming to prove his gold medal showing at the last Southeast Asian Games was no fluke as he bids to defend his title in Singapore next month with an eye on the Rio Olympics.
The 25-year-old won Thailand’s first badminton gold medal at the Southeast Asian Games in 38 years at the 2013 Myanmar Games after beating Indonesian Dionysius Hayom Rumbaka in the final.
“This Games doesn’t have any ranking but it is a game of honor,” he told Reuters. “Everybody wants to win this game. My gold medal last time was the first time for Thailand in 38 years.”
Tanongsak said his game was in good shape ahead of the June 5-16 biennial multi-sport event for the 11-nation Southeast Asian block.
“My strong point is my offensive style. I’ll try to work on that and I’ll try to fix my weak point as well,” he said.
Tanongsak’s coach had hoped his charge, ranked 19th in the world, would face Malaysia’s double Olympic silver medalist Lee Chong Wei in Singapore.
Lee was banned for eight months for doping but will return to action on Sunday and has been entered for the SEA Games but only in the team event.
“I hope he will play against Lee Chong Wei in Singapore,” said Watcharapan Kamthong.
The pair may meet at next year’s Olympics in Brazil.
Watcharapan was confident his young charge would be able to battle the Chinese favorites of world number one Cheng Long and twice winner Lin Dan for Rio glory.
“I have high hope for the Olympics in Brazil. We have prepared a team, coach, staff. We expect to be a part of the Olympic Games,” he said.
Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; Editing by John O'Brien