NAYPYITAW: Thai shuttler Maneepong Jongjit showed that he has put his three-month ban behind him by reaching the final of the mixed doubles event at the SEA Games.
On Friday, the 22-year-old Maneepong and his partner T. Sapsiree displayed an indomitable spirit en route to a sensational 21-15, 21-17 win over Malaysia’s Tan Aik Quan-Lai Pei Jing in the semi-finals.
They will take on top seeds Mohd Rijal-Debby Susanto of Indonesia, who prevented an all-Thai final after disposing of Nipitphon Puangpuapech-Puttita Supajirakul 21-11, 18-21, 21-19 in the other semi-final.
Maneepong was happy that he has returned well to competitive play after the dark period in his badminton career.
He was banned for three months following an ugly brawl with his former partner Bodin Isara during the Canada Open in July. Bodin, who punched and kicked Maneepong, was severely punished with a two-year ban.
“I was emotionally down during that time and it took me some time to get back to my feet after serving the ban,” he said.
“I took part in the Macau Open but an ankle injury halted my progress. I did no play well in the Hong Kong Open last month.
“But everything is coming together for me in this SEA Games and I hope to ride on from here. I feel confident and ready to win honours for my country,” he said.
On making it to the final, he said: “It was a good win against the Malaysians. They did not put as much pressure on us as we had expected. It will be tougher in the final but we are determined to keep the Thai flag flying high.”
Meanwhile, Aik Quan-Pei Jing was disappointed that they had to settle for a bronze medal.
“We got it all wrong in the opening game and allowed the Thais to put pressure on us. We were tied 15-15 in the second game but just could not finish it off,” said Pei Jing.
“It is disappointing to win a bronze as we had a chance of going home with a gold if we had stepped up our game.”