Thailand 17 May 2013 12:46
Mook, 17, never fathomed any other way of life, an existence outside the rice fields and subsistence farming. Having lost her mother at the age of 9, she moved to Surin, one of the poorest provinces in Thailand, to live with her father's family. From then on, she was made to work in the fields, clean the house and look after her younger cousins. At 12, a friend of the family noticed her strong build and suggested she earn her way by weightlifting - which is just what she did. Before long, she had secured a scholarship from the National Youth Team in Bangkok and began a new life. Now she receives a small salary and has a safe place to stay while she pursues her high school studies. Many children and young people from poor families in Thailand are sent to this kind of program where they get a chance to study and earn a little discretionary income. Most of them choose traditional boxing, Muay Thai, but as several female Thai athletes have begun winning Olympic weightlifting medals, the sport has become more popular.