Larnaka, Cyprus, July 30, 2016 – Konsiphong Vaikuntha-anuchit and Keattisak Naksompoi reached the second elimination round of the FIVB U19 World Championships early Saturday morning. The Thai teenagers defeated Russia’s Aleksei Kirienko and Anton Saraev with 2-0 (21-15, 21-18), playing like they have been regulars on the international circuit for years.
But in fact the junior event in Larnaka is their first international event and first trip outside the country. Both players come from Kalasin, a city in the northeast of Thailand, and they have been playing beach volleyball since they are 10 and 12 years old. By winning the national junior championships, the 18-year olds had earned a ticket to the U19.
While they struggle with the English language and all these new impressions in Cyprus, they feel right at home on the sandy courts in Larnaka. Both players display a great variation of shots, both are very agile in defence and the shorter of the two, Konsiphong (1.68m), has great flexibility in his right shoulder, which enables him to cut around the block very easily.
The Thai, who finished second in their pool, didn’t know what to expect coming here, but they feel blessed to be in the knockout rounds and are looking forward to their next match against Germany’s Milan Sievers and Sven Winter.
“We are very happy to have come this far”, said Konsiphong. “We are in control of our play and satisfied with the way we play. But now the opponents will get stronger and stronger. We will have to fight, fight and fight.”
The defence player shows his happiness with every point they score, roaring like a lion. Not very Thai, Konsiphong admitted. “But this is to push myself and my partner and it gives me energy. And for the pictures of course.”
There have been other Thai youth teams participating in the FIVB age-group events before, Marudet Buntem and Thanachod Thanthawat finished ninth at the U21 in Lucerne this year, but there has never been a medal for Thailand.
While Tanarattha Udomchavee and Varapatsorn Radarong have paved the way for Thai girls and are regulars on the World Tour, there are no male Thai players on the Tour.
There is going to be a big party when they bring a medal home, says Konsiphong, who stays in contact with his family back home through Facebook. “They are really happy we are doing so well.”Quick Links
• U19 World Championships Larnaka, Cyprus 2016 - website
• Qualification - Men
• Qualification - Women
• Main draw - Men
• Main draw - Women