His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej or King Rama 9 of Thailand was not only respected for his dedication toward his country and his nation but was also a great role model in sports. In his honor, we dedicate the paragraphs below to some of the sports and activities he excelled throughout his life.
HM the King loved doing sports since he was young, when he still lived in Switzerland. Among his favorite activities at that time were skiing, swimming, shooting, mini golf, mini car racing, tennis, gliding, etc. He spent a lot of time studying details about each sport to do it the best he could with a lot of practice. Growing up, HM the King started to be interested in sailing which challenges both body strength as well as creativity and skills in making your own sail.
Even though he had plenty of duties to fulfill, he always spared some time to take care of his health by doing some jogging to keep his body on track and to be able to continue to work for a long time. What he always emphasised with all athletes is the spirit of playing in games and respect in the rules.
“Sports is very important for each individual and overall beings,” once said the King, showing that he realised the value of sports and the importance in helping develop people who will work for the country.
Most of the people know that the King mastered sailing. He had a lot of passion for sailing both because of the sports side and the mechanic perspective. He designed and built his own sailing boat. He started with an OK Class dinghy named Vega 1 which he single-handedly sailed 60 nautical miles from Hua Hin to Toey Harbor in Sattahip, in a 14-hour journey test drive.
Later, he also invented the Mod Class dinghy, a design that is smaller than the normal dinghy to fit with Thai sailors followed by “Super Mod V”, an even smaller class which later was accepted as an official class in the 13th Asian Games in 1985. Sailing with Super Mod V, the Thai national sailing team won all six races in the games and grabbed one gold medal in this category.
He also established the Chitrlada Sailing Club and accepted many sailing clubs under his patronage.
By the time HM the King was interested in badminton, it wasn’t popular much in Thailand and was still very new. Even knowing that the sport didn’t get much attention from Thai people in general, he always went to observe the important matches.
Many of the professional and talented badminton players during that time were invited to play with HM the King at Chitrlada Palace. One of them was Wong Peng Soon from Singapore, the world’s top badminton player during that time.
HM the King provided support to the Thai National Badminton Club since 1975, the beginning of the development and improvement in Thai badminton to the world stage.
In a book written by Prof. Charoen Wattanasin, former Thai national badminton team player who reached the All-England final twice, he mentioned about the moment the team went to pay respect to the King before departing to an important match abroad “…Four of us had a chance to pay respect to the King for the competition and he kindly gave his advice to us to be good athletes, to maintain the good reputation for Thailand and he also mentioned about a previous match he went to see. He said that I played very well. The game wasn’t stressful and filled with smile from both sides reflecting the good spirit of an athlete. His word was always in my mind. It had a very big impact on me and made me realise the true meaning of being an athlete.”
in 2012, the Badminton World Federation of International Olympic Committee (OIC) also granted HM the King “The President’s Medal” in recognition of his remarkable support for Thai badminton.
The King really tried to develop sports in general as much as he could. He accepted the 5th, 6th, 8th and 13th Asian Games, 1st, 4th and 8th Southeast Asian Peninsular Games and 13th and 18th SEA Games as well as National Games and National Youth Games; all of them happened in the country under his patronage. He also supported over 13 Amateur sports clubs. He welcomed Thai national teams, cheer them up with his blessing before representing the nation in big games at the international stage.
In recognition to his talent and his great support in sports, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) agreed to grant HM the King the Insignia of the Olympic Order in 1987. Later in 2000, IOC also granted him the Lalaounis Cup, the highest honorary award that the committee had never given to anyone before to glorify his prestige.
Also, in 2001, the World Boxing Council also granted HM the King the Golden Shining Symbol of World Leadership in recognition of His Majesty’s outstanding support for Thai boxing and all sports in Thailand.
A biography written about a famous Thai boxer and World Champion in 1966, Chatchai Chioanoi, mentioned about his feeling when HM the King went to observe the important match, “I came down from the ring and went straight to pay respect to the King. Sitting in front of him, the King touched my face and told me I did a great job, he was happy. It was an ecstatic moment of my life.”
According to Bangkok Post, The King’s love for sports knew no bounds and it was his passionate involvement from the hospital bed that inspired the Thai national football team to Southeast Asian glory in 2014.
Thailand came from 3-0 behind to lose 3-2 in the second leg of the AFF Suzuki Cup final against Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur. The result was enough for coach Kiatisak Senamuang’s men to end a 12-year title drought in the biennial championship after a 2-0 home win in the first leg.
Prof Udom Kachintorn, dean of Siriraj Hospital’s Faculty of Medicine, said the King, who was staying at the hospital at that time, watched both legs of the final on TV.
“In the first leg, the King woke up to watch the second half. His Majesty slept in the afternoon and woke up at 7pm [kick-off time] to watch the second leg,” the doctor said.
“When Thailand trailed 2-0 at half-time, the King asked his principal private secretary to phone Kasem Jariyawatwong, the team manager, to tell him that the King was watching the match and wanted to give them moral support.”
After Thailand won the title, the King smiled and said “brilliant”, according to Prof Udom.
By his love of sports and his kindness spreading to all athletes in Thailand, several sporting events are named the King’s Cup in honour of the monarch, including regatta, golf, boxing and football.
photo credit: www.thairat.com