Muay Thai’s Olympic quest slowed by safety concerns



The ancient combat sport of Muay Thai has set its sights on Olympic glory, but a recent death has highlighted safety concerns that could slow its path to a Games debut.

Muay Thai allows some moves that are banned in other forms of kickboxing, such as elbow and knee strikes, and fighters wear little safety gear.

The sport secured Olympic recognition in 2021 – but whether the Games will ever host a Muay Thai event depends on efforts to make the fights safer and more inclusive.

Stephan Fox, secretary general of the International Federation of Muay Thai Associations (IFMA), insists it is “a very safe sport” with rules in place to ensure fighters are fairly matched. “In Muay Thai we have the same weight, same skills (…) At the end of the day, accidents happen in any sport,” he said.

He acknowledged that bouts organised privately in rural areas of Thailand outside the supervision of the governing body are harder to police. At one bout held in July in central Thailand’s Pathum Thani, an elbow strike put former South East Asian Games silver medallist Panphet Phadungchai into a coma, and a week later the 25-year-old died.

Muay Thai – known as the “art of eight limbs” for the different ways opponents can strike each other with knees, fists, kicks, and elbows – is Thailand’s de facto national sport and is a source of immense pride. —AFP


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