The BWF World Junior Mixed Team Championships 2023 marks a landmark for Cook Islands as they make their debut at a BWF event. Their participation is a Shuttle Time success story, for all six members of the team have come up through BWF’s flagship schools programme.
Shuttle Time, which started in the Cook Islands in 2015, is currently running in 20 schools, mostly in the capital Rarotonga. The programme engages over 1500 participants every year.
Thomas Mereana-Ngauru, President of Cook Islands Badminton Association, has a satisfied smile as he watches the team competition.
“We’ve surprised ourselves at how well we’ve done in a short period. I find myself sitting here and smiling, pleased that we’re here and seeing all these amazing players. We want to keep going.”
Mereana-Ngauru joined the association in 2016 and became President the next year, and recounts the early conversations with his team.
“Seven years ago we decided that we’re starting our association again, after years of watching it go up and down. We sat around and said, look, we need to start doing more with our kids, more development, to sustain our sport.
“So we did that, starting with Shuttle Time and going to the schools. The kids we have here have all come through Shuttle Time. So we have been able to watch it go from Shuttle Time to development programmes to this competition here. For us it’s been a lot of hard work over the years and sort of wondering if it’s all worth it, if we’ll ever get anywhere, but we’re here, and actually being competitive as well. It means everything; it’s the reason we do this.”
The Cook Islands consist of 15 islands scatter over 2 million square kilometres in the Pacific Ocean. Shuttle Time is mainly focussed in the capital Rarotonga, but the programme has been expanded to two of the outer islands.
Men’s singles player Daniel Akavi says he hadn’t even heard of badminton seven years ago. Once he was introduced to it through Shuttle Time, everything changed.
“The first time, I was like, it’s not for me. I thought it was easy, but I was obviously wrong. What interested me was that it was difficult to play and I wanted to try something new,” said Akavi. “But then I thought it’s challenging, and I like being challenged.”
“The World Juniors is making me want to play at a higher level. Next year I’ll go to university. And then it’ll be my first time to see how New Zealand train. If I go to New Zealand for university there, I want to see how high-intensity training is like.
“I’m now more hungry, having watched these top level players. After watching those my age play the top level, this is inspiration for me to try my best and be like them.”
Vital Stats – Cook Islands
11 Shuttle Time Teachers courses delivered
129 Shuttle Time Teachers trained
1,179 Children engaged
01 Shuttle Time Youth Leadership Workshop delivered
12 Shuttle Time Youth Leaders trained
Day 3 Group Results (Morning Session)
Group A: China bt Korea 3-2; Netherlands bt Australia 3-2
Group B: Singapore w/o Mauritius; Japan bt Canada 5-0
Group C: Austria bt Latvia 4-1; Malaysia bt England 5-0
Group D: Brazil bt Cook Islands 5-0; India bt Germany 4-1
Group E: Portugal bt Armenia 5-0; Indonesia bt Estonia 5-0
Group F: Hong Kong China bt Ghana 5-0; France bt Spain 5-0