PRESS RELEASE 12.03.2004


Thai coach predicts Olympic struggle

Thai head team coach, Natthapol Srisamutnak, has said his side faces a tough test in the upcoming Olympic Games qualifying tournament which is being held in Japan in May. "An uphill task awaits us," Srisamutnak commented as the Thai women's team prepared to undergo an intensive pre-qualifying training schedule.

As eight teams, namely Greece, China, USA, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Germany, Kenya and Cuba are already assured of their respective places in Athens this summer, the remaining challengers must compete in a qualifier to determine who fills the remaining four spots available.

With the likes of world champions Italy, hosts Japan and highly ranked Russia as well as Korea, Nigeria, Chinese Taipei and Puerto Rico taking part in this Olympic qualification decider, the Thai coach is being realistic about his team's chances. "We have to beat not only Chinese Taipei, but Korea and Japan. Against Japan, in front of their fans, I think we have only a 40 per cent chance of winning," Srisamutnak stated.

Yet the goal of Olympic qualification is not an impossibility for this eager unit. The Thai team managed a respectable fourth place finish at the 2003 Asian Senior Games while they have been winners on five consecutive occasions at the South East Asian Games.

Hailing his recently announced squad of players as a combination of new talents and old veterans, Srisamutnak insisted all members were eager to begin training and were in an upbeat mood ahead of the May tournament.

The Thai squad contains several dangerous athletes including the skillful setter Prim Inthawong whose experience will be invaluable to her team during the May qualifiers. The 26-year-old Sangmuang Patcharee and her compatriot Thinkaow Pleumjit, who is just 21, will give the Thais some exciting attacking options.

The top three teams plus the best Asian team from the single round-robin tournament will secure the final berths for the Olympics.