Prof Charoen sets sights on Olympic glory after disappointment in Beijing
When Charoen Wattanasin took over as president of the Badminton Association of Thailand, I knew there would be a dramatic change in the sport for the better.
Badminton in Thailand has enjoyed a long rich history and one of those who contributed to the advancement of the discipline is Prof Charoen.
My first meeting with Charoen was in the early 1970s at the Royal Bangkok Sports Club when I partnered him in a game of doubles and he told me that my badminton wasn't as good as my table tennis.
We had barely spoken to each other and that was the first time we played together.
I immediately fathomed his honesty and had tremendous respect for him and his straightforwardness.
My first impression of him was high. I said to myself that given his rich background and his contribution to the advancement of the sport as a player, he will do a lot if given the opportunity.
He boldly admits that he learned badminton by playing on the windswept courts in Chiang Mai and one who claims at every turn, very proudly too, what His Majesty the King has done for the sport.
In the past, Thailand had stars in the discipline but they shone individually. Heroes like Sangob Rattanusorn, Bandid Jaiyen and Preecha Sopajaree did a lot.
When one failed, badminton followers had to keep their fingers crossed and wait for another competition to come along to cheer for their favourites.
But today, there are several rising stars to follow and the numbers keep increasing.
The collective advancement, the young ages of players and their style of play have made a vast difference to Thai badminton and the outlook of the sport.
Players also hail from all parts of Thailand.
Charoen said there are more than half a million badminton players in the country with several hundreds playing in pursuit of excellence.
He pointed out there were more than 150 clubs in the country and said all involved were indebted to the Crown Property Bureau and the Siam Cement Group for their continuing support.
The Sports Authority of Thailand and the Olympic Committee of Thailand have also played a big part.
The fact that the BAT had 59 tournaments in one year, clearly shows how active badminton is today in Thailand, he said.
''Our biggest disappointment was our inability to shine at the Beijing Olympics, but we are working full steam ahead to gain success in the 2012 London Olympics and to make our presence felt at the Youth Olympics in Singapore. ''The players are working hard and the clubs are co-operating and encouraging their players to train well.
''They are following BAT's training schedule while the SCG Badminton Academy is providing them with every possible assistance.
''We are also revamping our coaching programmes to create advanced training methods,'' he said.
Thailand has also toasted the outstanding performances of 14-year-old Rachanok Intanon, who hails from Mukdahan, and is now a member of the Ban Thongyod Club in Bangkok. In April, she won the Hanoi International Challenge tournament in Vietnam.
At the recent SCG All-Thailand Championships, she beat title favourite Sapsiree Taeratanachai 21-14, 21-17. In the semi-finals, she had overcome national player Salakjit Ponsana 21-16, 21-17.
The SCG All Thailand Championships also crowned the country's men's singles player Boonsak Ponsana as champion.
The Kingdom witnessed an 18-year-old Maneepong Jongjitr and Bordin Issara win the men's doubles for the first time while Maneepong and Rojana Juthabandhitkul captured the mixed doubles.
Yes, badminton has marched forward thanks to the expert direction of Prof Charoen who is determinedly giving back to the discipline what he got from it.