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Beach volleyball potential growing in Thailand

Kulna Kamoltip, who retired last year, was one of Thailand's star players
Bangkok, Thailand, January 30, 2012 – FIVB Board of Administration member and Thailand Volleyball Association president Shanrit Wongprasert has praised the achievements of the country’s beach volleyball players but added that more needs to be done to develop the sport further in the country.

Thailand’s women topped the South East Asia Continental Cup tournament last November to book their place in the finals later this year, and Shanrit is confident that they can seal a place at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

“For the London Olympic Games, I think our women, like from Japan, China and other strong teams, have a good chance of making the cut,” he said in an interview with Thai paper The Nation. "If the Chinese and Australian teams qualify through World Tours, our players will then find it easier to make their mark in the qualification tournaments. The most important factor is that we have to do our best in any tournament we play."

However, he added that he’d like to see more attention paid to the players, and admitted that the indoor game is focused on much more by fans.

"The results of our beach volleyball stars in competitions such as the Asian Games, Asian Beach Games and Asian Tour series are outstanding just like those of players in indoor volleyball. Indeed, the indoor teams have been a little more successful in major international competitions such as the World Grand Prix.

"Our fans pay more attention to indoor players such as Pleumjitr [Thinkaow], Onuma [Sittirak] and Wilavan [Apinyapong]. They support their kids to play indoor volleyball and become famous like their heroes. That is one reason why more and more indoor volleyball events are organised than beach volleyball tournaments,” he added.

However, there are promising signs that beach volleyball might now be warranting the attention it deserves, with development increasing consistently.

“We have been holding more and more beach volleyball tournaments in recent times to popularise the game among the public,” Shanrit said. “We just want young talent to replace the seniors in near future."

He also believes that the next Kulna Kamoltip, one of Thailand’s former stars who retired last year, could be found very easily.

"Kamoltip was a highly skilled player who had been quite successful at the international level. She won the SEA Games gold three times in succession and was instrumental in the country winning several competitions, including on the Asian Tour. Her retirement immediately after the SEA Games in Indonesia has not affected the team. Kamoltip is in her 30s and at this age she might not have performed as well as before and could have got injured easily. I believe there is a replacement in place and the youngster will be a force to reckon with in the future," Shanrit concluded.

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