National women's pair Pearly Tan-M. Thinaah are aware of the massive challenge awaiting them at the Paris Olympics as they set an initial target of clearing the group stage. - BERNAMA pic
National women's pair Pearly Tan-M. Thinaah are aware of the massive challenge awaiting them at the Paris Olympics as they set an initial target of clearing the group stage. - BERNAMA pic

KUALA LUMPUR: National women's pair Pearly Tan-M. Thinaah are aware of the massive challenge awaiting them at the Paris Olympics as they set an initial target of clearing the group stage.

The world No. 13 will not be seeded in their Olympics debut, potentially placing them in a "group of death" with at least two top rivals from China, South Korea, and Japan, who have two qualifiers each in the 16-pair competition.

The preliminaries will feature four groups, with all 16 pairs divided into four groups. Only the top two pairs from each group will advance to the knockout stage.

The challenge is daunting, considering even the lower-ranked pairs include Bulgaria's Stoeva sisters, Gabriela and Stefani, Denmark's Sara Thygesen-Maiken Fruergaard, and India's Tanisha Crasto-Ashwini Ponnapa.

Pearly-Thinaah showed promise by winning the 2022 French Open, a Super 750 tournament, which marked their best achievement to date. They have also become more accustomed to beating top rivals from South Korea, China, and Japan - a feat rarely achieved by other top national women's pairs in the past.

However, their performance has fluctuated since then, and they have struggled to maintain consistency.

This year, besides reaching the semi-finals of the Malaysia Masters, Pearly-Thinaah's only other notable outings were reaching the quarter-finals of the All England and the Indonesia Open, where they knocked out China's world No. 1 pair, Chen Qingchen-Jia Yifan, in the last 16 of the All England.

With the Paris Olympics less than two weeks away, Thinaah admitted feeling a mix of nerves and excitement ahead of participating in what is considered the pinnacle stage of an athlete's career.

"Everything is going well at the moment. We can't wait to compete in the Olympics. Every player's dream is to win a medal at the Olympics, and we are no different. We are on the right track, but there is still much to improve.

"We may face top players at that time. They have their strengths and weaknesses. Competing against them will be a real challenge. But for now, we just want to focus on ourselves, taking it step by step."

Pearly echoed Thinaah's sentiments, saying that after undergoing intensive training since their last competition at the Indonesia Open a month ago, their focus now is to deliver a strong performance and let their play on the court speak for itself.

"We've been through a rigorous training period to regain our confidence and refine our playing style. Everything is going well, and we're putting our all into training," said Pearly.

"Competing in the Olympics is every player's dream. Ideally, everyone aims for a gold or any medal. This dream is shared among us.

"We've come this far, and we're eager to showcase our best performance."