KUALA LUMPUR: At 37, Thailand's veteran doubles player Pramote Teerawitana is considered the grand old man of the world badminton scene. But retirement is still far from his mind.
Pramote is still giving the younger players a run for their money and will make a record fourth consecutive appearance in the Olympics in Athens this August.
Pramote and his towering partner, 26-year-old Tesana Panvivas, are currently ranked 13th in the world and are assured of their place in the Olympics.
Only the top 19 pairs in the world at the end of this month will qualify automatically.
In what will definitely be his Olympics swansong, Pramote hopes to bow out on a high note.
I am aiming to win a medal in Athens. I will be 41 by the next Olympics in China and I do not think I can keep playing at the top level that long.
This will be my best chance to win a medal, said Pramote, who hails from Kanchanaburi near Bangkok.
Pramote will partner Tesana for the second time in the Olympics.
Pramote reached the quarter-finals in Atlanta '96 with Sakarapee Thongsari, their best achievement in the Olympics to date. In Sydney four years ago, Pramote and Tesana lost in the last 16 to Malaysia's Choong Tan Fook-Lee Wan Wah.
Pramote, a police officer, is the skipper of the Thai national team. He rose up the ranks at the same time as Malaysia's Cheah Soon Kit.
But unlike Soon Kit, who is now coach of the women's team, Pramote is still very much in the fight with the younger pairs.
His staying power is largely due to his self-discipline and minute attention to fitness.
Thailand coach Udom Luangphetcharaporn said Pramote was a good example for the younger players.
He started playing in 1988 and has changed three partners. But because his fighting spirit is still very strong, he can complement his partners. He still has the fire in him to challenge for titles, he said.
Thailand are also banking on Pramote-Tesana to provide a point from the doubles during the Thomas Cup Finals in Jakarta next month. Thailands second pair is Sudket Prapakamol-Patapol Ngernsrisuk.
Pramote-Tesana delivered the winning point to beat Hong Kong 3-2 and win the fifth and final spot for the Thomas Cup Finals during the Asian qualifier here in February.
For the ABC, Pramote-Tesana, the fourth seeded, are targeting a place in the last four, where they will likely face Lee Dong-soo-Yoo Yong-sung again.