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[Tokyo Olympics] S. Korean-born taekwondo coach for Thailand wants to look at 'bigger picture'

Choi Young-seok (L), the South Korean-born coach of the Thai taekwondo team, and his athlete Panipak Wongpattanakit celebrate Wongpattanakit's gold medal in the women's 49kg class at the Tokyo Olympics at Makuhari Messe Hall A in Chiba, Japan, on Saturday. (Yonhap)
Choi Young-seok (L), the South Korean-born coach of the Thai taekwondo team, and his athlete Panipak Wongpattanakit celebrate Wongpattanakit's gold medal in the women's 49kg class at the Tokyo Olympics at Makuhari Messe Hall A in Chiba, Japan, on Saturday. (Yonhap)
CHIBA -- Over the past two decades, South Korean-born taekwondo coach Choi Young-seok has transformed Thailand from a fledgling presence to an emerging force at international events.

The culmination came Saturday with the country's first Olympic taekwondo gold medal, as Panipak Wongpattanakit won the women's 49kg title at the Tokyo Summer Games. Thailand had previously collected two silvers and three bronzes.

And Choi, who has been coaching Thailand since 2002, is undergoing the naturalization process, hoping his status as a Thai will help him accomplish even bigger goals.

"I've been living in Thailand for 20 years, and I felt I'd have a chance to return all the love and support I've received from the Thai people," Choi told Yonhap News Agency after the historic gold medal here. "I wanted to make new Olympic history for Thai taekwondo.

"I would also like to help Thai people in need and become more active in sports diplomacy," Choi continued. "But there are restrictions for a foreign national in those areas. I was asked about being naturalized a few years ago, and I've decided to go for it with a bigger picture in mind."

Choi, who has been dubbed "Tiger" for his strict, no-nonsense style of coaching, said he was "honored" to have been a part of Thailand's first taekwondo gold.

He had hoped to do so as a Thai, but the administration process has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Choi said paperwork should be completed by the end of September at the latest. (Yonhap)



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