December 5, 2015
You'd be forgiven for thinking 15-year-old Janejira Chuynoey is here to support a family member in the paramotoring competition.
At just 53kg, the petite Thai girl looks like she can barely lift the 30kg Polini Thor paramotor next to her. But when its time to gear up for the start, the smiley school girl's eyes narrow into competitive focus as she pulls on her helmet.
Chuynoey, or Gege to her friends, may be the youngest competitor at the FAI World Air Games in Dubai, but don't be fooled by her playful smile, sparkly mobile phone or cutely coiffed ponytail. She's here to win.
"My dad taught me to fly," she said with the help of a translator. "I spent a year learning to handle the wing on the ground, then at the age of 13, he let me do my first flight. Now when we race I beat him. It makes him sad."
Gege has also been taught by Thailand's national team members who are all proud of her success, both nationally and internationally. She flies twice a day, before and after school, sometimes dragging her father out of bed to take her to the airfield.
This year, she competed in the Asia Oceanic Paramotor Championship, where she was the only woman. "It's very hard to find female competitors in Asia. I'm excited to compete against other women here, because I want to beat them. I want to beat the men too. I'm very competitive."
Gege has reached celebrity status in Thailand and gets recognised in the street after competing in the Thai National Games.
The Polini Thor 190 is a heavier paramotor, an unusual choce for a petite pilot. But Gege says she likes the power, even though she struggles to run with it on her back during take-off in light winds. "I can't always take off in nil winds, but I still try," she said.
By Andy Pag
Discover the FAI World Air Games 2015
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