Thai sepak takraw players get a boost from PM's visit
Armed with clappers and booming voices, the Myanmarese supporters certainly made their presence felt at Singapore Expo Hall 1 yesterday.
They were cheering on their compatriots who were playing Thailand in the sepak takraw men's team doubles final.
But, midway into the second regu (team match), the small but vocal Thai crowd roared into action.
Flanked by police and men in suits, Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha emerged at the top of the stairs and then proceeded to his seat.
At first, his presence seemed to have put pressure on Thai duo Assadin Wongyota and Anuwat Chaichana, who saw their opponents Wai Lin Aung, Zaw Zaw Aung overcome a seven-point deficit in the second set to win 25-24.
But, in the game-deciding third set, the Thais stormed back.
Substitute Suwicha Tala applied the finishing touch by smashing it home to win the set 21-19 and end a thrilling two-and-a-half-hour match.
With three sepak takraw golds in the bag and three more days of competition to go, Thailand are on track to repeat their table-topping haul of six golds from the 2013 Games.
Speaking through a translator after the victory ceremony, Suwicha, 25, said: "I've been working really hard just to get to this game.
"I came here wanting only gold, but it was not an easy gold."
He added that the players were feeling tired during the final, after their match against Singapore on Thursday evening, when the hosts lost 2-0.
But the Prime Minister's presence gave them a shot in the arm.
He said: "I am honoured that he came to watch the match."
Thailand coach Kamol Tankimhong, 61, added: "The athletes fought for everything they could to win for him (the Prime Minister).
"I feel so proud that the team won the gold medal today."