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Thai’s golden girl Panipak heads home in style Monday



The family of taekwondo heroine Panipak Wongpattanakit will greet the Olympic gold medalist in Phuket on Monday when she returns home from Tokyo with the rest of the team.

Sayant Wareearunroj, Panipak’s uncle, said at his house in the southern province on Sunday his niece will arrive in Phuket on Monday on Singapore Airlines flight SQ726 and stay on the resort island for two weeks under the required conditions of the Phuket sandbox.

She will be joined by her father, Sirichai, along with other family members and supporters waiting to welcome her home at the airport.

Panipak, nicknamed Tennis, will celebrate her 24th birthday on Aug 8, the last day of her 14-day quarantine, her uncle said.

The Surat Thani native won the gold medal in the 49kg class with her last-gasp kick at Adriana Cerezo Iglesias with less than five seconds left in the final on Saturday.

At that point she was trailing the Spanish teenager 10-9. What fans are now calling the “golden kick” gave her an 11-9 win in a sharply-contested match.

read alsoHistory beckons for favourite taekwondo exponent Panipak

She gave the country its first gold medal at the Tokyo Games and its first-ever gold in taekwondo.

The star said after the match that she dedicated the medal to all Thais to bring them happiness in the time of the Covid-19 crisis.

She was disappointed after winning only bronze in the Rio Olympics in 2016, and pondered throwing in the towel before returing to training two months later.

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