A group of 9 Thai weightlifters all share the same goal -- making the podium in 2020 -- and they've come to the city of Fuefuki to achieve it. Expectations are high. The women's team has won medals at every Olympics since women's weight lifting became an official event in 2000. And in Rio, Thai weightlifters took home 4 medals.
Sopita Tanasan and Sukanya Srisurat took gold in their respective weight classes. And they are hoping to repeat this 2 years from now. "Of course everyone wants to win a gold medal. And we focus on it. I believe that if we do our best in order to reach the goal, we can achieve the best result," says Tanasan.
The sport is an individual competition, but they credit teamwork as a major reason for their success. It's a bond that extends beyond the weight room. The athletes are scouted at an early age. Once they join the national team, they live together at the team facility. Most of them have been together for more than 10 years. "We’re like a family. When there’s an event abroad, we all go together, and we feel like relatives," says Srisurat.
The athletes are training at a local high school. They amaze young Japanese weightlifters. "They’re really powerful. And they're totally different from us," says a male student. During a break, the athletes offer tips to the students. "Pull your elbows. Then get the shaft closer to your body," says Tanasan. "I cannot keep good form with heavier weights. So it’s very helpful. I’m learning a lot," says one of the students.
Niwat Limsuknirun, General Secretary for the Thai Amateur Weightlifting Association, says training in Japan is a key step for their success. "Our biggest goal for now is the Tokyo Games. I think it's important to get used to Japanese ways in advance." They are set to visit Japan 3 more times before the Olympic Games. They say their focus right now is on qualifying -- and that begins at the World Championships this November.