Game for Friendly Fight

They share a close relationship off-court but Benyapa and Nuntakarn Aimsaard have no qualms about disappointing compatriots Jongkolphan Kititharakul and Rawinda Prajongjai in their battle to qualify for the Olympic Games.

Although Kititharakul/Prajongjai currently occupy Thailand’s women’s doubles spot on the Race to Paris 2024 rankings, the Aimsaard sisters, who are 10,928 points behind, have not given up on their big dream.

“Everyone wants to go to the Olympics and we are no different,” asserts Nuntakarn. “We are up for a fight, we are determined to take our teammates on.”

Younger sister Benyapa shares the enthusiasm.

“We want to try our best to make the Olympics. Maintaining a good ranking and improving with each tournament will be key,” says the 21-year-old.

The world No.13s are on a comeback trail after Benyapa’s knee injury early last year disrupted their progress. One of the form pairs of 2022, the Thais won three titles and finished runners-up to Chen Qing Chen/Jia Yi Fan that year to mark their most successful season together.

The Aimsaards ended their 2023 season strong.

Following an inconsistent first half of 2023, Benyapa’s healing knee coincided with their improved form as they made the Hong Kong Open semis in September and played the quarterfinals at three of their last five tournaments of the year.

“I was in pain for about a year but now I feel okay. My focus is on making the muscles around the knee stronger (ahead of the new season),” said Benyapa.

With another four months to go before the qualifying window shuts, Nuntakarn believes getting close to their 2022 best would leave them with a good chance of winning their fight against Kititharakul/Prajongjai.

“Our strength is our chemistry. We hope to use it to our advantage in our quest to reach Paris,” she said.

The Aimsaards begin their 2024 campaign against Chinese world No.7s Zhang Shu Xian/Zheng Yu in the PETRONAS Malaysia Open 2024 first round next week.

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