Thanachai “Job” Kapinkan can’t wait for the Blossom Valley League Division Finals. The Gilroy High senior and foreign exchange student from Thailand entered the week with an 11-3 record, with two of those losses coming to Branham’s top player.
“I would like to play him again and try to beat him,” Kapinkan said. “He’s a very good player, but I have to put more of an effort to make myself confident and forget everything that happened in the past. I have to keep going forward to be a winner. I have to come back and practice harder and focus on the effort and strategy.”
When Kapinkan returns to his native country in June, he will have gained a lifetime of memories in his short stay in Gilroy. Kapinkan decided to study in America for one calendar school year for a variety of reasons.
“I wanted to learn a new culture, but mostly I wanted to grow up and see how it was like living without the support of your parents,” said Kapinkan, who arrived in the Bay Area last August and admitted that he experienced culture shock initially. “When I first got here, I thought to myself, ‘Oh my God, what am I doing here? This is a different world.’ I had to learn something new everyday, because everything is different here from the normal life I lived in Thailand.”
Kapinkan said he’s enjoyed his experience in Gilroy, especially since he’s forged friendships with his host family—Jonathan and Heather Bass—and the badminton team.
“It was hard to make friends at first, but over time I’ve been able to make a lot of good friends,” he said. “I’ve been lucky.”
Gena Gonzales, who is one of the Gilroy High assistant coaches, said Kapinkan has been nothing but extraordinary in what he’s brought to the school.
“He is smart, brave, tremendously athletic, but overall just a remarkable young man,” Gonzales said in an email to the Dispatch. “He has shown us to see our world through his eyes and we are all better educators, teammates and people. He is a tremendous ambassador for Thailand. Personally, I’m so blessed to have crossed paths with Job because his charm and endearing spirit are contagious and heartfelt. If (every) exchange student was like Job, I’d host one every year.”
Kapinkan excels in producing powerful smashes, and like all high-level badminton players, Kapinkan possesses cat-like reflexes.
“I’m not that fast, so it’s good I have fast reactions,” he said.
Gonzales was effusive in her praise for Kapinkan’s athletic ability.
“As a badminton player, he is highly skilled,” she said. “It hurts my joints watching him play because he is so flexible and agile. He gets to everything on the court. The highlight of my season was actually scoring seven points on him during a set (however, I think he wasn’t truly trying). He has shown many on this campus what (type of) athleticism and skill are needed to play badminton at a very high level.”
Kapinkan played several sports growing up, including basketball, soccer, swimming and table tennis. But he excelled most in badminton, starting the sport at age 10. With only a couple of weeks left in his senior season, Kapinkan will no doubt get a little emotional when reflecting on his time in America.
Don’t get Kapinkan wrong—he’s looking forward to going home—but he’s found a second home in his time in Gilroy.
“It’ll be hard to say goodbye to my host family,” he said. “They’ve been so wonderful in helping me here, and I’ve learned so much about myself. I’ve gained a lot of confidence and have grown up a lot.”