Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai had a dream start to the year, winning three titles in three weeks on home soil at the Asian Leg, but the Thais are cautious about reading too deeply into that performance as Tokyo 2020 comes up.
Instead, the world No.2 pair are more inspired by their results at the YONEX All England last year and the TOTAL BWF World Championships 2019. They were runners-up at both tournaments, but both Puaravanukroh and Taerattanachai believe that the prestige and strength of the draw at those events made their achievements special.
“Although we won three titles at the Asian Leg, China and Japan weren’t there. So we will have to be prepared to try harder at the Olympics,” said Taerattanachai to Badminton Unlimited.
“My favourite achievements are the World Championships and All England as we could make history for Thailand.”
Puavaranukroh and Taerattanachai were the first Thai pair in a final at the World Championships.
“I agree with what Popor (Sapsiree) said. World Championships and All England are the oldest and most important tournaments and we made history for Thailand. Next time we go there we hope we can win the gold medal,” said Puavaranukroh.
The Thais have nothing less than gold on their mind for Tokyo 2020. Unlike many players who found the lockdown period affecting their preparation, the Thais are thankful to have had an uninterrupted training stint.
“I don’t have a problem with training and no competition. I like it because we can work on weaknesses in our partnership. If there are competitions, it’s harder for me to be on top physically and mentally, considering my age,” says Taerattanachai.
“Since the Olympics were postponed, we had more time to prepare. Now we really want the competition to start. Every day I know what I’m training for, so I can focus. We have also managed to maintain our fitness, because in the pre-COVID time, there was no time between tournaments to get fit.
“My expectation is gold medal, for sure. When I get there, I will do everything to ensure that. We will keep trying as hard as possible.”
This is Taerattanachai’s second Olympics after Rio. She says she is better prepared this time round, and is almost thankful for the COVID restrictions as that will prevent any distraction from the task at hand.
“In Rio, I knew there were many things in the Olympic Village. Now I won’t think about all that, because of the COVID situation. We will only stay in our rooms, so we will be able to focus better. It’s different this time because in Rio I didn’t target a medal; I only wanted to participate and I didn’t expect a medal. This time I hope I can get a medal.”
While they haven’t played any international matches since the end of January, Puavaranukroh is confident their preparation has been sound.
“We’ve had a lot of matches within the team to get the feeling of the tournament and be the most prepared we can be. We have been able to work on our weaknesses and we have been able to prepare well.”
Puaravanukroh and Taerattanachai are also hoping that their performance in Tokyo can provide cheer for their countrymen who have been affected by the pandemic.
“A lot of Thai people have been affected due to COVID; many have been unable to go outside their homes. If we can get a medal, that will help to make them cheerful,” said Puavaranukroh.