Pongsakorn Paeyo wins gold at Tokyo 2020 Paralympics

Pongsakorn Paeyo recently scored Thailand’s first gold medal at Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, flying our flag high on the world stage.

But besides news of him bringing home the gold, we may not know that the inspiring wheelchair racer actually harbours a deep love for cars.

Here are some fun facts – including how he pushed past his physical limits to achieve sporting success – that have molded the athlete into the champion that he is today.

More stories on Thai athletes:

1. He started his career as a para-athlete in 2009

To outline this incredible athlete’s many achievements, let’s first start with when exactly Paeyo’s sports career began.

At the age of 13, Paeyo begain his para-athlete career in the realm of wheelchair racing back in 2009. Persuaded by one of his school teachers, he decided to compete for the first time at the 30th Nakhorn Sukhothai Games, according to Daily News.

If wasn’t long after that he discovered that he had a knack for wheelchair racing.

Paeyo in his youth, flying the our flag high on the race track.
Image credit: Pongsakorn Paeyo

This was a landmark race for him, as he eventually clinched his first bronze medal. The unbelievable part was, he trained only for one month before he participated in his first tournament in Sukhothai. 

Paeyo at one of his training sessions
Image credit: Pongsakorn Paeyo

2. His family life: Paeyo is married 

Besides his public persona as a bona fide athlete, our gold medalist Paeyo does have his own family life. To all you ladies, sorry but the man is taken.

He’s married to his wife named Mrs. Aum Ratchanok and the couple has two kids together – a baby girl and a son.

Paeyo and his young family
Image credit: Aum Ratchanok

Besides doing his duties as a dad, he often shares adorable updates about his romantic dates with Aum on his socials and on Facebook

Image credit: Pongsakorn Paeyo

3. Pongsakorn won his first Paralympics gold medal at Rio 2016

Now that we’ve covered his origin story and family life, here’s more on his sporting achievements.

The high-achieving Khon Kaen native first triumphed at Rio 2016, snatching up a gold medal in the hotly anticipated wheelchair racing event for the first time in Rio 2016.

Rio 2016
Image credit: Bangkok Post

Winning by 46.82 seconds, Paeyo also broke a world record in the 400M T53 category. As for the 100M race, the athlete snagged a silver medal as recorded on the Olympics website

Paeyo on his victory lap at Rio 2016
Image credit: Bangkok Post

This was also coincidentally the year that Thailand bagged six of every medal – gold, silver and bronze – in our most successful Paralympics crusade.

4. He has a subtle obsession with cars

Image credit: Pongsakorn Paeyo

In 2018, Paeyo was spotted flexing about his blue and modified truck in a Facebook post. Turns out, one of his old hobbies was drag speed racing. Sadly, less than a year later, he decided to sell the vehicle in March 2019.

Image credit: Pongsakorn Paeyo

Just a month later, he was talking about getting a new truck once he was paid. Heading over to his Facebook profile, you’ll def notice his subtle obsession with cars, due to his frequent posts about them in the past.

The Isuzu truck he wanted in 2019
Image credit: Pongsakorn Paeyo

5. His idol is another fellow para-athlete named Sopa Inthasen

Getting a polio diagnosis is definitely a tough experience, but Paralympian Pongsakorn Paeyo took it in his stride. Like many aspiring athletes, he drew inspiration from an idol, not too far from home.

Paeyo’s idol is none other than fellow wheelchair racer and one of the Nonthaburi team’s athletes named Mr. Sopa Inthasen.

Sopa Inthasen’s life story on television
Image credit: หัวใจนักสู้

If you’re wondering if they’ve both crossed paths before, 24-year-old Paeyo and 37-year old Inthasen got to race each other head-on at the 36th Nam Kok Games at Chiang Rai – where they both competed in the 200M men’s category in T53.

The 36th Nam Kok Games at Chiang Rai for para-athletes
Screenshot: TNA MCOT

Inthasen crossed the finish line first and beat Paeyo’s record by one minute. But Paeyo’s finish was still impressive, with a record timing of 30.27 seconds, whereas Inthasen was timed at 29.72, according to TNA MCOT.

We’re glad that Paeyo has such a good role model to inspire him to continue pushing his limits.

6. Paeyo debuted in Korea’s 2014 Asian Para Games

There’ll come a time that every athlete will make their debut in their very first competition overseas.

For our latest Paralympics Tokyo 2020 gold medalist, his momentous race in reppin’ Thailand was at the 2014 Asian Para Games in Incheon, South Korea.

2014 Asian Para Games at Incheon
Image credit: Paralympic 

Although he didn’t win any medals for his international competition in the 100M T53 race, he was still a step closer to global recognition. 

Image credit: Pongsakorn Paeyo

7. Burst into a power sprint at Tokyo 2020’s prelims & broke a world record

Just 7 years later from his debut in 2014, Paeyo aced the men’s 400M T53 wheelchair race in 46.61 seconds at the Tokyo 2020 games, reported by the Nation Thailand.

He managed to singlehandedly beat his predecessor’s 2008 world record – held by a South Korean para-wheelchair athlete at 47.31 seconds – at the prelims, making Paralympics history according to Stadium TH.

Paeyo’s power sprint from the back of five other competitors
Gif: Stadium TH

During the exhilarating race, he was initially trailing his five other competitors. Never giving up, Paeyo suddenly burst into a power sprint – outpacing all of his rivals, ending the race within seconds.

Paeyo at Tokyo 2020 Games
Image credit: @Tokyo2020

8. Paeyo holds the Asian record for wheelchair racing

When it comes to breaking records, however, Paeyo is certainly no stranger to that satisfaction.

At the London 2017 World Championships, Paeyo clinched the Asian record for his groundbreaking finish in the 200M T53 men’s event.

Image credit: Pongsakorn Paeyo

According to the Paralympics site, even though his Canadian counterpart Brent Lakatos achieved the gold medal instead, Paeyo’s achievements were still recognised as he brought home two bronzes and three silver medals to Thailand. 

Well done Paeyo, Thailand is proud of you!

Many among us who are diagnosed with medical conditions in our childhood, or simply continue to battle societal stigmas daily can look to Paeyo’s incredible journey for inspiration. Athletes like him are shining examples of always challenging our limits to create breakthroughs no one thought was possible.

Kudos to Paeyo for giving hope to others and making the impossible, possible.

Which other para-athletes have you been paying close attention too this Tokyo Paralympics? We’d love to hear who else you’d like us to feature in the comments.

Cover images adapted from: Pongsakorn Paeyo (Left), The Derrick (Centre), Pongsakorn Paeyo (Right), 

Enjoying The Smart Local Thailand? Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more stories like this.