Banlung Tabtimdang, affectionately known as “Nong Yu,” clinched gold for Thailand in the taekwondo event at the 19th Asian Games, marking the first time in over a decade a male athlete from the nation has achieved this distinction.
The 18-year-old Pranburi native showcased his prowess at the Lin’an Sports Culture and Exhibition Center on September 26th during the games, which were postponed from their original 2022 date due to the COVID-19 pandemic and are currently taking place from September 23 to October 8, 2023.
Tabtimdang, who stands at an impressive 190 centimeters, began his path to the gold by beating Gobinda Bahadur Ale of Nepal with scores of 14-12 and 8-7 in the last 16.
The promising athlete then moved forward by triumphing over Hao-Yu Hsu from Taiwan in a thrilling match ending with scores of 13-7, 3-12, and 18-15.
Facing off against China’s Liang Yushuai in the quarter-finals, Tabtimdang was undaunted by the roars of the home crowd, defeating Yushuai 12-4 and 15-9. His final challenge was the renowned Iranian fighter, Alireza Hosseinpour. Tabtimdang won the match 2-0 with scores of 7-6 and 11-7.
This victory solidified Thailand’s position in the Taekwondo events, closely following the previous gold won by “Nong Tennis” Panipak Wongpattanakit.
This win is particularly significant as Tabtimdang becomes the first male taekwondo athlete in 13 years to secure a gold medal at the Asian Games for Thailand. He follows in the footsteps of Chutchawal “Max” Khawlaor, who clinched the title during the 2010 competition held in Guangzhou, China.
Chutchawal has now transitioned into a mentor role and is a prominent member of Banlung’s training team.
Reflecting on his achievement, Tabtimdang remarked, “I gave my best in every match, and I always tried to heed my coaches’ advice.”
He dedicated his medal, stating, “I would like to offer this gold to myself, Thai fans, my family, the Taekwondo Association of Thailand, and to everyone.”
Tabtimdang, affiliated with the taekwondo team at Salesian Hua Hin and having previously been the runner-up in the 2023 World Championship and the junior world runner-up in 2022, has set his sights higher.
His triumphant performance in Hangzhou augurs well for his potential participation in the 2024 Olympic Games in France, cementing his status as the rising star of Thai taekwondo.
At the time of publishing, Thailand boasts five gold medals, with two originating from taekwondo.
Alongside Tabtimdang’s stellar performance, taekwondo sensation Panipak “Tennis” Wongpattanakit clinched her gold in a contentious final against a Chinese contender, executing a remarkable comeback in the last 66 seconds.