From the distant islands in the Pacific to the West Coast of Australia, 26-year-old Teitiria Utimawa is reveling in her first-round success and first ever international win at the BWF Future Series event in Perth.
Her opponent from Australia, Radhika Swain, made it through to the main draw after winning her qualification match this morning. However, Teitiria delivered a devastating blow to the 16-year-old with a 21-12 21-14 victory.
“I am so happy to win and I want to try and do even better in the next round”, says Teitiria.
With minimal experience on the big stage, Utimawa’s career highlight so far was at the recent Samoa 2019 Pacific Games. In the Mixed Team event, she exceeded expectations with a terrific performance in the Women’s Doubles alongside Tinabora Tekeiaki.
While Tinabora suffered a first-round exit at the hands of Australia’s Tiffany Ho (seventh seed), Teitiria now needs to prepare for a tough match against the sixth seed from Chinese Taipei, Peng Li Ting, in tomorrow’s second round.
Agreeing with Teitiria’s reflection on the game, her coach expressed the need for an injection of pace as the rounds get stronger.
“At the start of the game, she was visibly nervous as she was playing in a completely new environment”
“By staying calm on concentrating on not making mistakes, she was able to set up the points nicely which carried her through the game”
“It’s about to get a lot harder though and she will need to increase her speed around the court to compete in the next round”, says Dean Lewis (coach).
Not only does she have the second round of the Perth International to look forward to, Kiribati’s Teitiria Utimawa is a potential contender for a place in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, through the Tripartite Commission.
The Tripartite Commission allows for participation by athletes from National Olympic Committees who would, through normal qualification processes, have little or no representation at the Games.
However, Teitiria’s immediate focus will be on tomorrow morning. She will partner up with Tinabora in the Women’s Doubles first round before tackling the sixth seed in the second round of the Women’s Singles, scheduled at 1.35pm (local time GMT+8) on Friday 6 September.