Hua Hin kiteboarder Benyapa Jantawan to compete in Paris 2024 Olympics

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Hua Hin based kiteboarder Benyapa “Fawn” Jantawan is set to represent Thailand at the Paris 2024 Olympics, which will be the pinnacle of what has been a remarkable and somewhat unexpected journey in the sport.

Hua Hin Today caught up with Fawn just before her departure to France, with the Olympics due to be held from July 26 to August 1, 2024.

Fawn’s journey into kiteboarding began at the age of 25, quite late for someone entering the sport.

“My background is just like a normal office girl, you know, I never really did any sport before kiteboarding. At school I hated sports, especially running”, Fawn explained.

She discovered kiteboarding at SurfSpot in Hua Hin, where she has continued to train ever since. “I started with jet skiing because of my ex-boyfriend. It took me a year to decide to try kiteboarding,” said Fawn, now aged 40.

Over the years, Fawn’s commitment to the sport has intensified. Initially, she engaged in kiteboarding casually, but about eight years ago, she decided to take it more seriously. “I began going to the gym, teaching herself and learning through social media, and eventually hired a professional trainer. My routine now includes daily gym sessions and four hours of water training,” she said.

Fawn’s hard work paid off last year when she won a silver medal at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China. Reflecting on her preparation for the Olympics, she described her rigorous training schedule, starting at 6 a.m. and ending around 6 p.m. each day.
“For the preparation right now, I’ve been training in Pattaya with my team. We follow a strict routine. My day starts at 6 a.m. with breakfast, then I hit the gym from 7 to 9 a.m., followed by another meal. Training in the water begins at 11 a.m. and lasts for about four hours. After that, I get a sports massage to release all the tension. My day typically finishes around 6 p.m.”

Despite her achievements, Fawn has faced challenges, including injuries. “My doctor allowed me to return to training after the New Year, but my knee, foot, and shoulder injuries have resurfaced. We’re working to manage these as I prepare for the Olympics,” she explained.

Fawn’s dedication and resilience have led to memorable moments in her career. She recounted a particularly tough competition during the World Championships in China about ten years ago, where she managed to secure a third-place finish despite severe pain from an ankle injury, which later required hospital treatment. She sustained the injury during the first race of a five race event.

Another significant event was during the COVID-19 pandemic, where she overcame illness to win an Asian Pacific event in Pattaya.

As she prepares for the Paris Olympics, Fawn expressed her excitement and determination. “Initially, I wasn’t excited, but as the Olympics get nearer, I’m more excited. My goal is to do my best, minimize mistakes, and stay focused,” she stated.

Competing in the Formula Kite event, which is about speed and quick decision-making, she aims to utilize her training and experience to perform at her best.

She added that as the Olympics gets nearer she is finding herself increasingly being thrust into the spotlight. Hua Hin Today spoke to Fawn the day before she was due to be interviewed by Thai news outlets Channel 3, Thai Rath and THE STANDARD.

Kiteboarders on Hua Hin beach. File photo

Despite the increased attention, Fawn said: “I’m not interested in the spotlight on me. I just do what I like to do.”

Regarding the future of kiteboarding in Thailand, Fawn acknowledged the challenges. “The equipment is expensive, and the sport is perceived as dangerous. I hope to see more females in this sport, but it’s hard to find,” she noted.

Fawn’s journey from a novice at 25 to an Olympic athlete highlights her dedication and passion for kiteboarding. As she heads to Paris, the Hua Hin community and the entire nation will be cheering her on.

Background on kitesurfing: The fastest sport at the Olympics

  • Kitesurfing, the fastest sport in the Summer Olympics, will debut at the Paris Games, with events taking place in Marseille.
  • Athletes can reach speeds of up to 80 kilometers per hour (50 mph), making waves and wind almost silent.
  • Competitors use a surfboard connected to a parachute-like sail and a hydrofoil, which, when humming, indicates high speed.
  • There is a need from riders for instinctual strategy during races, which last under 15 minutes.
  • Safety gear is essential due to high speeds making water feel solid upon impact.
  • Kitesurfing has grown rapidly, with 3.5 million participants globally.
  • The 2024 Games will feature the top 40 professionals, competing in four daily races on a 10-kilometer course.
  • The sport, requiring only a board, a sail, and a daring spirit, will be showcased on a prominent global stage, potentially attracting more youth to this thrilling form of sailing.

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