Indonesia 2018: Thailand’s wheelchair racing wonders

Paralympic champions head Asian Para Games contenders 04 Oct 2018 By World Para Athletics

The last three years have seen Thailand’s top wheelchair racers make a huge impact on the international stage, so expectations will be running high at the 2018 Asian Para Games, which start on 6 October.

Pongsakorn Paeyo, Rawat Tana, Prawat Wahoram and Saichon Konjen have been at the forefront of Thailand’s growing success, consistently bringing home a multitude of major medals from Para athletics events around the world.

All four are in action in Indonesia over the coming week.

At the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, Paeyo and Wahoram each clinched two golds apiece – Paeyo won 400m and 800m T53 gold against the likes of Canada’s Brent Lakatos, while his teammate sealed 1,500m and 5,000m T54 gold ahead of Switzerland’s Marcel Hug and teammate Konjen.

Paeyo went on to win three silvers and two bronze medals at the London 2017 World Championships – the best-placed Para athlete in the Thai team.

The 21-year-old, who made his senior international debut at the Asian Para Games four years ago, races in the 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m T53 in Jakarta’s Gelora Bung Karno Main Stadium and on paper looks hard to beat.

Wahoram, 37, is a man for the longer distances – he races the 1,500m and 5,000m T54 at the Asian Para Games, where he will face a tough field including teammate Tana, the defending champion in both events.

The 41-year-old won his first world title back in 2002, he also claimed double distance gold at Doha 2015. His best placed finish at London 2017 was second in the 5,000m T54 and he is undoubtedly one of the most experienced competitors in the field next week.

While the London 2017 World Championships were not so profitable for Konjen – his best finish was sixth in the 800m, while he was disqualified in the 200m - the 35-year-old is no stranger to success.

He has 11 Paralympic and 10 world medals to his name, and won both 100m and 800m T54 gold (as well as two silvers and a bronze) at the 2014 Asian Para Games.

Add the likes of China’s double world silver medallist Yang Liu and Japanese duo Tomoki Susuki and Sho Watanabe in to the mix – not to mention Kuwait’s young rising star Faisal Alrajehi - and the men’s T54 races promise to be as captivating as ever.

Kewalin Wannaruemon was the only Thai woman to medal on the track at London 2017 – she will be hoping to add to her 100m T11 world bronze next week.

The 23-year-old vision impaired sprinter, known for her cartoon eye masks, finished third at the last Asian Para Games and will be made to work hard once again with Chinese duo Cuiqing Liu and Guohua Zhou also in the field.