Taekwondo star Panipak Wongpattanakit arrived at Phuket airport with her Olympic gold medal on Monday morning, and immediately set her eyes on competing in the next Games.
The 23-year-old Olympic women’s 49 kilogramme champion returned from Tokyo on a Singapore Airlines flight that touched down at 9.25am. She and her companions were tested for Covid-19.
Her father and representatives of the government and the private sector were there to give her a very warm welcome. Phuket governor Narong Woonciew presented her with a bouquet from Her Royal Highness Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana Rajakanya.
Ms Panipak said she was most delighted by the reception.
“In Phuket, I want to enjoy good food, like seafood, cookies, cake, barbequed beef, fish.
“As for the future, I will take it step by step. I want to do my best in every arena assigned to me. As for the next Games in Paris [in 2024], I want to be there again if I am perfectly healthy,” she said.
Her father, Sirichai Wongpattanakit, said he was grateful for the support given by Thai people and he was glad his daughter had brought them happiness.
His daughter competed for Thailand and her victory was a victory for all Thai people.
National coach Choi Young-Seok said he had been in Thailand for almost 20 years and he could not be happier with the joy he had brought to Thai people on this occasion.
Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said Ms Panipak and her companions were invited to Phuket so that she would not have to be quarantined in a hotel room for 14 days.
The Phuket Sandbox reopening model allowed arrivals from overseas to visit tourist attractions if they tested negative for Covid-19.
Kongsak Yodmaee, governor of the Sports Authority of Thailand, said the National Sports Development Fund was ready to reward Ms Panipak with 10 million baht if she wanted it right away, or 12 million baht if she preferred it in installments. Organisations had also donated nearly 20 million baht to her team.
The taekwondo exponent became an Olympic champion in dramatic fashion with a last-gasp kick in the women’s 49kg final at the Tokyo Games on Saturday.