Long-time Thai team star Wilavan Apinyapong willing to shelve retirement plans for Olympic dream
Wilavan Apinyapong has been playing for the Thai national team for 16 years. Jerome Ascano

BANGKOK Glass outside spiker and long-time Thailand national team star Wilavan Apinyapong bared she’s planning to retire from volleyball in three years unless the Thais qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

 “Maybe after three years I will retire because as if now I still have a contract with the Thai league and after and next year I will get married,” she said on Friday after Bangkok Glass lost to VakifBank Istanbul in the FIVB Women’s Club World Championship at the Mall of Asia Arena.

 “Maybe that time, after three years, I’m still good and I can help my national team maybe I will stay one more year to help my team (in the Olympics) but after three years and I’m not good I will retire,” she added.“It’s important for us to go to the Olympics because the Thailand team has never gone to the Olympics and if we cannot go, it will be so sad.”

But the 32-year-old Wilavan, who has been playing for her country in the past 16 years, hopes her young teammates in the Thai national team could also gain exposure of playing abroad the same way she and middle blocker Pleumjit Thinkaow have in their careers.

“I think we have good players in our position but they’re still young and need more experience because me and Pleumjit we play outside (the country),” she said.

“But our young players they just play in Thailand, so I hope next year they get to play outside and gain more experience and I think they will be a good player for the Thailand team,” she added.

Wilavan became part of the national team since 2001 and won several gold medals in Asian tournaments. She was part of the team that won the gold medal at the 2009 Asian Women's Volleyball Championship and defeated China in four sets.

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She was also a vital cog in the Thai team that finished fourth place in the 2012 World Grand Prix, the team’s best result since joining the competition in 2002, and bagged the gold in the 2012 Asian Women's Cup Volleyball Championship also at the expense of the Chinese then winning another gold medal at 2013 Southeast Asian Games.

Wilavan suited up for club teams in China such as Guangzhou Evergrande, Fujian Xi Meng Bao with Thinkaow. She also played in the Spanish professional club IBSA Club Voleibol for the 2007-2008 season of the Spanish Superliga, Turkish club Eregli Belediyesi and Azerbaijan club team Igtisadchi Baku among others. 

Follow the writer on Twitter: @meilinlozada