At the Badminton Oceania Annual General Meeting on Thursday 25 May in Kuala Lumpur the winner of the Heather Robson Award for 2022 was announced. This award which is presented to an individual in recognition of their outstanding contribution to the promotion and development of badminton in the Oceania region, was awarded to a volunteer from Cook Islands.
In presenting the award, the Badminton Oceania President, Loke Poh Wong acknowledged the contribution Thomas has made ‘’Thomas is a very deserving winner of this award – thank you for all that you have done for Cook Islands Badminton and the Oceania Region’’.
The nomination for this award clearly demonstrates Thomas’s contributions and commitment to badminton in the Cook Islands.
Prior to 2014, Cook Islands Badminton Association was a social group of players, managed by a committee of volunteers. When Thomas was elected as President in the same year, he shared his vision to promote and deliver badminton throughout his country to all that was willing to give it a go. With rugby and netball being the dominant sports in the Cook Islands, Thomas took on the challenge of increasing numbers, facilitating tournaments, and introducing high performance coaching to players that showed potential.
Thomas has been instrumental in coordinating the numerous activities and events that are on the Cook Islands Badminton annual sporting calendar as well as association committee meetings, extra tournaments and facilitating travel arrangements for squads attending overseas tournaments. He invests time and effort into training young players passing on his knowledge and skills and nurturing their talents. Thomas’s dedication to this is shown in the young Cook Island players now playing in international tournaments.
Thomas has spread awareness of badminton in a nation that has been dominated by rugby and netball. He has been responsible for introducing badminton into the schools via the ShuttleTime programme, instigated after school ShuttleTime classes and created opportunities for players with differing levels of experience. He has succeeded in keeping many players of all standards of play including social, beginners and elite, interested and happy to keep playing badminton in the Cook Islands for many years.
With the introduction of AirBadminton – the outdoor version of badminton – to Rarotonga and several of the remote outer islands a wider audience has been reached – another of Thomas’s initiatives.
Thomas’s consistent presence and dedication to Cook Islands Badminton demonstrates his reliability and passion for the sport and the community. His volunteer work, love for the sport, and innovative approach to integrating badminton have made a significant contribution to the growth of badminton in Cook Islands. Thomas’s accomplishments in promoting badminton and nurturing young talent have been outstanding, making him an exemplary role model and benefiting the Cook Islands badminton community as a whole.
Thomas worked closely with Badminton Oceania and his committee in the Cook Islands to host the very successful inaugural Oceania Masters in Paradise tournament in May 2022, one of the first international sporting events to be played in the region.
One of Thomas’s philosophies is that if one is going to do a job, do it well and if long term be committed. He has certainly shown that over his seven-year tenure as President – being elected unopposed each AGM.
Thomas was an attendee at the Badminton Oceania AGM virtually with the Heather Robson award received on behalf of Thomas by Badminton Cook Islands representative, Ngaoa Ranginui. Thomas was taken aback when his name was announced saying ‘’I wasn’t sure if you were talking about me, this is very unexpected’’. Thomas acknowledged the effort put in by the team behind him in the Cook Islands and is honoured to share the award with them. He also thanked Badminton Oceania and the Badminton World Federation, who without their support, none of the development and success could be possible.