His Majesty is king of sports
Sports Desk joins the rest of the nation in celebrating the King’s 86th birthday today
His Majesty the King’s love for sports is second to none. When he was younger, he was a sailing champion and played several sports including badminton. He has been a patron of several sports associations and tournaments.
Last year, the Badminton World Federation honoured the King with the President’s Medal — the BWF’s highest award — for his ‘‘exceptional contribution’’ to the sport.
Kang Young Joong, then BWF president, said the award was to ‘‘honour the outstanding lifetime contribution of His Majesty the King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand to badminton.
‘‘His Majesty is truly deserving this accolade for a lifetime as an ardent protector and an enthusiastic supporter of badminton.’’
The award is another proof of His Majesty’s involvement in sports.
In 1987, the King received the International Olympic Committee’s Olympic Order for his participation in and devotion to sports.
A successful athlete himself, the King has been a fan and a patron of sports and an inspiration for Thai athletes.
In 1967, the King won a gold medal in sailing at the fourth Southeast Asian Peninsular (SEAP) Games — now the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
His Majesty finished tied first with his daughter Princess Ubolratana in the OK Dinghy event in Pattaya and both were gold medallists.
His triumph was even more outstanding because he built his own boat.
The King received the gold medal from Her Majesty the Queen during the closing ceremony of the Games on Dec 16 at Bangkok’s Supachalasai stadium.
Dec 16 has since become National Sports Day, when the Sports Authority of Thailand announces its athletes of the year and other award recipients.
When he was younger, the King often went to watch or preside over sports events, including world boxing cham- pionships. His Majesty witnessed Pone Kingpetch become Thailand’s first world boxing champion at Lumpini stadium on April 16, 1960.
After beating title-holder Pascal Perez of Argentina to claim the flyweight crown, Pone was granted an audience at the Royal Box.
‘‘When His Majesty patted me on the back, I was so happy that I cried,’’ Pone said at the time.
His Majesty’s influence has continued into the modern era. At the 2004 Olympics in Athens, His Majesty sent a message to the Thai boxing team to wish them good luck.
‘‘The King’s message makes me feel stronger,’’ Manus Boonjumnong said before he won gold.
At the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, boxer Somjit Jongjohor carried an amulet bearing the image of the King in the monkhood.
‘‘The King himself is holy — he is holier in the monkhood,’’ said Somjit, who went on to take gold.
The King has also personally funded several individual athletes including Charoen Wattanasin who received His Majesty’s scholarship to study for a Masters and played badminton in England decades ago.
One of Thailand’s most successful shuttler of all time, Prof Charoen served as president of the Badminton Association of Thailand, which has received the King’s patronage since 1954, until this year.
His Majesty has donated trophies to several sports events including the ongoing King’s Cup Regatta, King’s Cup football tournament, Thailand Open golf and badminton championships and King’s Cup amateur boxing event.
The King is not only interested in sports for the sake of competition but he has also encouraged Thais to take part in sports for good health and unity.
‘‘Sports can improve the quality of lives and a nation,’’ he once said in a speech. ‘‘Sports can unite the people and the country.’’