The alumni of the Chula Sports Development for the Nation Project have made Thailand proud at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, and at many other competitions over the past three decades – proof of Chula’s commitment to promoting sports excellence and academic mastery among youth. The project is open yearly to young adults with athletic skills in more than 30 sports.
The impressive performance of Thai athletes at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 has demonstrated the progress of sports in Thailand which has been climbing to a higher rank in the world arena year after year. Chulalongkorn University is delighted that the nine alumni from the Chula Sports Development for the Nation Project performed exceptionally well, especially Panipak Wongpattanakit (Tennis), who won the first Taekwondo gold medal for Thailand.
Though the other eight athletes didn’t receive the medals, they showed outstanding athleticism that brought them closer to their Olympic dreams. These outstanding young athletes include Isarapha Imprasertsuk (Warm), shooting, a Political Science alumnus who passed into the finals of Women’s skeet and finished at fourth place, which is the first time in Thai history; Thanyaporn Prukakorn (Tanya), shooting, Engineering alumnus; Sapsiree Taerattanachai (Por Por), badminton, a Communication Arts alumnus, who made the eight finalists in the mixed doubles badminton event; Busanan Ongbamrungphan (Cream), badminton, a Communication Arts alumnus; Rawinda Prajongjai (View), badminton, a Commerce and Accountancy alumnus; Nawapat Wongcharoen (Wine), swimming, a Sports Science alumnus; Jenjira Srisaard (Joy), swimming, a Communication Arts alumnus; and Kornthawat Samran (Nat), equestrian, a Sports Science alumnus.
The list of these rising stars is part of the vast number of athletes that the Chula Sports Development for the Nation Project has been priming for excellence in sports and education for over three decades.
“The leading athletes of the future” – the vision from yesteryear
Today’s Olympic gold medal and many other regional and global sporting achievements do not happen overnight, but over a long time with earnest toil and consistent support.
Asst. Prof. Dr. Suthana Tingsabhat, Assistant to the President for Student Affairs in Sports elaborated on the Sports Development for the Nation Project that, “in 1985, Thailand hosted the South East Asian (SEA) Games and had great success with gold medals. That year, there were so many rising stars. Ajarn Panasarn (M.L. Panasarn Hasdin) who was in charge of sports activities for the Office of Student Affairs at that time proposed to Prof. Dr. Kasem Suwannakul, the then President, that support for the project would be in line with the government’s policy for sports programs for the nation.”
Hence, the university founded the Sports Development for the Nation Project in 1985 and started recruiting students for the first time in 1986, with 10 students from the Department of Physical Education, Faculty of Education. Up until now, the project has recruited approximately 65 students with athletic abilities per year to enroll in more than 12 faculties.
“Chula has provided the opportunity for students who are talented in sports to study in the University to enhance their athletic skills while equipping them with higher education. In addition, the University also wants to produce student-athletes to serve as role models of healthy and vigorous students, as well as being an inspiration for other Chula students to take up sports,” said Asst. Prof. Dr. Suthana.
All-round Support for sports advancement and educational progress
Although the success of each student depends on the effort, determination, and perseverance in learning and practicing, the committed and all-round support from Chula helps the students to reach their full potential, namely
- Sports facilities for practice
Chula campus has standard sports facilities, and equipment for each of the 30 sports, suitable for effective training, e.g., swimming pools, tennis courts, athletic fields, soccer fields, fight sports centers, Petanque fields, and so on. There are also clubhouses for athletes to meet and talk with their advisors, coaches, and fellow athletes based on the sports of their interests.
- Personnel, coaches, advisors, clubhouses
Chula provides support of sports personnel for students in the project, namely the club advisors and coaches. The club advisors will take care of planning training sessions with coaches, students, and parents, as well as taking care of students’ life on campus and study plans. For students who do not have personal coaches, the university will provide coaches for them. As for the students who already have personal coaches, Chula coaches will help in supervising the training as well.
In addition, the Chula Sports Development for the Nation Project is planning to bring in other personnel such as physical therapists, nutritionists, and psychologists to take care of the athletes in addition to sports personnel.
Students in the Project who wish to reside in the university dormitory will be facilitated so that they can better concentrate on their studies and sports practicing.
Chula shoulders all expenses for the events in which the University sends athletes to compete, e.g., application fees, training expenses, accommodation, travel, and food expenses, etc.
- Academic aspect
Students in the Chula Sports Development for the Nation Project will study in the same way other students do, to ensure that their academic competencies are up to the standards of Chulalongkorn University students.
“Students in the Sports Development for the Nation Project have to fulfill their duties both in sports practice and studies. Sometimes sports may affect their studies, so the project asks the Faculties’ academic advisors to help the students who struggle with their academic work, for example, the advisors may find senior students to help tutor them. Moreover, Chulalongkorn University Language Institute also provides English language instruction for students in the project,” said Asst. Prof. Dr. Suthana.
For those students who make outstanding achievements or win competitions, Chula will award them with a scholarship in apprecof appreciation for their dedication to practice and compete.
Building a secure future both in sports and career
Asst. Prof. Dr. Suthana said that the athletes participating in the project are usually national team athletes or national youth athletes. What the project expects is that after the students graduate from Chulalongkorn University, they will continue to play sports for the nation, and apply the knowledge gained from Chulalongkorn for self-development to reach their optimum potentials.
“Most of our athletes come in at the age of 18-19 and still don’t do well in sports because they have a lot of responsibilities. But when they finish school at the age of 21-22, they will have an opportunity to improve their sports skills, because they don’t have to worry about studying anymore. Plus, they will have a degree from Chulalongkorn University guaranteeing their employability in their field of study. This period after graduation is when athletes are at their highest potential.”
After their graduation, many of the Project alumni continue to represent the country in their respective sports in many events like Olympic Games, Asian Games, SEA Games, as well as other national and international competitions. Some alumni still maintain their active roles in sports even when they no longer compete, like sports reporter Teerat Phopanich,
an alumnus of the Faculty of Education, and former Gymnastics gold medalist at SEA Games 1985, and 1987; Lecturer Dr. Thanakorn Srichaphan, an alumnus of the Faculty of Education, and former tennis player for the Thai national team, as well as lecturer of Physical Education, Faculty of Education, Khon Kaen University; and Sirilak Mingmolee, a Communication Arts alumnus and former tennis player for the Thai national team.
Chula is ready to welcome new classes of young athletes every year.
Nowadays, sports circles are constantly changing and developing far and wide. New sports are emerging all the time, like skateboarding, and sports climbing were added to the recent Tokyo Olympics. Assoc. Prof. Dr. Suthana said that Chula plans to expand the support to cover those new sports as well. In the academic year 2021, esports athletes were accepted into the program for the first time right after the Chula Esports Club was established.
“Interested students who dream of improving themselves in both sports and education will get full support from us when they come to study at Chulalongkorn University. We want you to join us in both areas and believe that you will be successful in the future because our society now needs people who can excel in a variety of things. Chula is fully equipped in many areas, be it athlete development and athlete support for students in the project,” Asst. Prof. Dr. Suthana extended his invitation to young athletes.
The Sports Development for the Nation Project will be open for application to young athletes in the TCAS system, rounds 1 and 2. Round 1 starts in January, and Round 2 during March of every year. More details can be found at http://www.atc.chula.ac.th/TCAS/home.html or http://www.admissions.chula.ac.th/.