Smilla Sundell is a fast-rising star in the sport of Muay Thai. Even though her parents have returned to Sweden, this tenacious 18-year-old remains in Bangkok living up to her own ambitions.
Called ‘The Hurricane’ and ‘The Storm’ by her adoring fans, and labelled a prodigy by the media, one would think that all the praise and success would go to the head of teenage muay thai world title challenger, Smilla Sundell.
Not so, in the case of this respectful and friendly 18-year-old Swedish, Bangkok-based, muay thai star who recently beat Jackielou Buntan, an American-Filipino muay thai kickboxer and one-time Women’s Muay Thai Strawweight World Championship title challenger.
ScandAsia magazine had the honour of interviewing Smilla, who has been hailed as the youngest champion ever in the ONE CHAMPIONSHIP. We spoke to her via messenger while she was on holiday back home with her family in Sweden recently.
Why Muay Thai?
What motivated you to take up the sport of Muay Thai?
Smilla: My parents started with me and my sister and after a while I really began to like the sport.
Have you been in Thailand a long time? What does your family think about your success in muay thai?
Smilla: I’ve been living in Thailand for six years and I have a sister who also does muay thai. My parents and sister are very supportive of my sport.
Alone but not lonely in Thailand
Who do you live with in Thailand?
Smilla: Right now, I live at the gym with my dog. My family is back in Sweden again, although when they first came here my parents had a laser quest business on Koh Samui. Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 pandemic business on the island slowed down and of course there were no further opportunities for me to improve in muay thai. My parents thought it best for us to more to Bangkok. After this, my family moved back to Sweden, and I stayed on in Thailand to pursue my muay thai career.
It must be difficult to be alone in a foreign country while your family are all back in Sweden. How are you coping with that side of it all?
Smilla: To be honest it does get lonely at times, and I do miss my family a lot. Sometimes it is tough being here on my own, but I love what I do, so it is okay.
Studies or sport?
What about your study/practice regime?
Smilla: I’ve taken a bit of a break from most of my studies to focus on my muay thai skills. I do still study English and Mathematics online, but the other things need to wait as I am at an important point in my sport and in my life. Right now, I practice muay thai daily from seven to ten in the morning and then again in the afternoon from three to about five or six in the evening.
What do you do in your free time or when you are not practicing muay thai?
Smilla: I usually like to hang out with my friends. We eat together and go to the movies.
Eating healthy for a healthy mindset
And on the topic of eating. Do you always eat healthily or what kind of diet do you prefer?
Smilla: No, I don’t really follow a healthy diet as such but when I am preparing for a fight camp, I take care of what I am eating.
What would you normally eat the day/night before a big competition?
Smilla: I like to eat steak and sometimes chicken with cashew nuts.
Muay Thai all the way?
What other sports do you like?
Smilla: I enjoy playing basketball
Relationship with Fairtex Training Centre
Smilla says her favourite sports hero is undoubtedly her fellow sportswoman, Stamp Fairtex. She says she watches Stamp train everyday and knows how hard this mentor of her works.
Matt Lucas, Social Media Manager at Fairtex Training Centre in Pattaya, Thailand, told ScandAsia that Smilla came to Fairtex almost two years ago and they saw that she was accomplished in muay thai, having trained on Koh Samui. They discovered that Smilla had a lot of potential and was signed to Fairtex right away. “Fairtex acts as her primary sponsor,” he said, adding that as her ‘agent’ they subsidize her accommodation and meals, as well as provide her further muay thai training.
“In addition, we secure her fights and develop her athletic career, Lucas said, adding that the company was able to secure her a contract with ONE Championship, where Smilla was able to seize the ONE Championship muay thai belt.
In his own words: “Smilla is hardworking, dedicated and a great asset to the team.”
Continuing the personal interview, ScandAsia asked Smilla about her mindset regarding her sport and her future aspirations.
The future in your own hands
Do you see your sport as a future profession or as something to do for now to keep fit?
Smilla: I definitely see it as a profession, and it certainly does keep me fit. I plan to take my muay thai career as far as I can.
Do you think the life of an athlete is tougher than that of another profession?
Smilla: Maybe a little bit, because you have to always think about diet and being ready for a match.
Are you part of a team or is muay thai a solo sport?
Smilla: It’s both. You have to have a good team to push you but in the end it’s all you.
What do you do to make practice fun?
Smilla: I try to learn new techniques.
Mentors, coaches and sparring partners
Who is your coach and why do you like him or her?
Smilla: I don’t really have a coach. I train with everyone, but I really look up to Stamp who is a kickboxing and muay thai champion herself, and Rodtang who trained me for my last fight. There are many others who I love training with too.
Smilla tells ScandAsia that her biggest fighting challenges so far have been against Fahseethong Sitzoraueng in 2020 and Jackie Buntan this past April.
When asked how she thought a sport like muay thai might make somebody a better student or worker, Smilla stood firm in her opinion, saying: “It teaches you discipline and confidence and builds up your mental stamina.”
Her advice to other young people wanting to take up muay thai?
Simply have fun!