SAPPORO, Japan — Less than two days after the fighting fish was declared the nation’s official aquatic animal, a Thai ice sculpting team’s rendition of the animal swam to the first prize Thursday in an international contest.
The icy likenesses of three Siamese fighting fish impressed judges at the 46th International Snow Sculpture Contest in Japan. “Betta Brilliance – The Beauty and Strength of Thailand” was sculpted by Kusol Bunkobsongserm, Amnoaysak Srisuk and Kitsana Wongtes.
“The way Pla Kad swims is very dignified but gentle, like Thai people,” the description of the sculpture on the festival’s website reads, referring to the Thai name of the fish.
Second prize went to a dragon sculpture from Macau. Nine teams participated: China, Korea, Finland, Hawaii, Indonesia, Macao, Poland, Singapore and Thailand.
Upon winning, the team said that their biggest challenge this year was the falling snow.
The festival has proven to be a Cinderella-like story for Thailand, now ice-sculpting champions six times over. Having participated in 22 contests since 1991, Thailand snagged the top prize in 2000, 2008, 2009, 2010 and most recently in 2018.
Kusol, Amnuay and Kitsana, who have entered the contest multiple times, won the 2018 prize by sculpting a pair of fighting cocks. Kusol is an employee at the Shangri-La Hotel, Amnoaysak works at the Grand Hyatt Erawan and Kitsana is a freelance sculptor.
The cabinet on Tuesday officially declared the Siamese fighting fish the national aquatic animal.