Thailand's Olympic hopeful Keerati Bualong looks set to earn another Asian gold medal this week as he solidifies his first place in the Laser Standard class at the 15th Asian Sailing Championships 2012 being held in Langkawi, Malaysia.
Keerati, 19, has won three of the seven races sailed to date, with four second-place finishes resulting in a total of nine points, four ahead of Malaysian Kahirulnizam Bin Mohd Afendy. In third on 18 points is Zhou Jinfu of China. Following the Asian Sailing Championships, Keerati will head to the Laser Worlds in Germany in early May, where the top 12 nations in the Laser Standard class will qualify for the 2012 Olympics. With three days and five races to go in Langkawi, Keerati's coach Veerasit Puangnak said, 'Keerati is making Thailand proud. The first few days, he excelled in difficult conditions with thunderstorms and gusty winds, but he also performed well in light winds of 8 knots.'
On yesterday's rest day, Keerati admitted, 'The competition among the top three here is intense.' But he added that he is committed to a serious training programme after the regatta and 'very excited' about the likelihood of qualifying in May for the Olympics. Keerati would be the first Thai to officially qualify for the Olympics in sailing, a sport once enjoyed by His Majesty the King.
Keerati won Laser Radial gold in both the Asian Games in 2010 and last year's SEA Games. To compete internationally, he has had to gain 10 kilograms for the larger Laser Standard Class, as well as commit to a new training programme of cardio workouts, and several hours a day on the waters off Sattahip where he sails out of the Royal Thai Navy Sailing Club.
Supporting his efforts are Burapha University and the Sports Authority of Thailand, which is sponsoring his training and his participation in the Laser Worlds in May. Other supporters include the Yacht Racing Association of Thailand, Chandler & Thongek law offices, and PTT.
Keerati is now hoping for the little extra backing that would enable him to train in Germany for the Laser Worlds and in Europe prior to the Olympics.
Other Thais closing in on medals in Langkawi include Damrongsak Vongtim and crew Kitsada Vongtim, who currently top the Hobie 16 class. In the 29ers, Noppakao Poonpat and crew Dylan Whitcraft are also in first place. In the Optimist Girls class, Chaninat Poolsirikot is in first, with Kamonchanok Klahan in third.