Tuvalu, one of the smallest and least visited countries in the world and a member association of Badminton Oceania since 2006, is set to take part in the Northern Marianas 2022 Pacific Mini Games this month. While they will not compete in the mixed team event, they will be represented in a Pacific Games (although the ‘mini’ version) for the first time since 2011 in the individual tournament by Maeli Ioane and Betty Resture.
Their home country is completely made up of coral atolls, which are the remains of a volcano which has sunk below the surface of the water. Their environment can prove difficult to cater for badminton activities. However, the federation introduced badminton to the Physical Education curriculum in 2008 and have since the introduction of badminton courts marked out in rural spaces.
Currently, they reside in Fiji where they teach Shuttle Time to the local communities, including Tuvaluan communities. However, they take their teaching skills with them when visiting home and are excited to represent Tuvalu’s blue and yellow colours in thier first international competition. Learn more about their badminton journey in this Q+A:
Can you tell us more about your journey from Tuvalu to Fiji? Do you visit home much?
Maeli: “Staying here in Fiji is different compared to where I come from. Tuvalu is a small country, and it is a good experience for me to stay in Fiji. It has allowed me to explore and learn new things. I believe that the pandemic will continue to disrupt lives everywhere and this is why I am currently stuck here. I miss my home, family and friends a lot but the sport itself and the friends I have made here have helped me cope with this.”
Betty: “I started playing Badminton after I visited Fiji for school purposes. I wasn’t able to visit home much due to the pandemic situation and my school obligations.”
How did you find out about and seize opportunities in badminton?
Maeli: “I used to have a Chinese neighbour in Tuvalu who played Badminton and he was the one that first invited me to try out the sport. In 2020, we were invited to try play Badminton at the Vodafone Arena in Suva. This was where we first started to understand about its rules, the demand and how exciting it was hitting the shuttlecocks in a proper indoor court. Unfortunately, COVID-19 pandemic halted everything but this did prevent us from learning. Badminton Oceania organised an online course, where they even paid for our meals and internet to support our learning during the lockdown. It was amazing for us because it felt like we were never in lockdown.”
Betty: “Since I was a Table Tennis athlete before, I have played different sports when I was young, including Badminton. I officially started when Mr Iakopo Molotii told me to join the Shuttle Time program and that led me to where I am now.”
What does it mean to you to represent Tuvalu at the Pacific Mini Games?
Maeli: “My dream is to be able to represent my country. It motivates me to see my fellow friends and family traveling to compete at the Games, hoisting the flag and representing our island. For me, this is a great opportunity. I just need to be better prepared physically, mentally, and spiritually. I hope that after the Mini Games, we will be able to prepare well and have more local competitions in Tuvalu.”
Betty: “This means a lot to me personally. I have represented my country in Table Tennis before and this time it is for badminton. It is really a great honor and a good experience for myself.”
What motivates you the most to play and teach badminton?
Maeli: “The things that motivates me the most to play and teach badminton is to believe in my strength. My mother always remind me that strength is very important to any situation so If I know how to use my strength, I will be able to face any challenges in play or when I teach badminton.”
Betty: “One of the many things that motivates me to play and teach badminton is the opportunity I get to represent my country, especially to help give the same opportunities to the future generations of Tuvalu in the near future.”
Are there any particular skills/qualities that you developed through Shuttle Time which aids you to compete at the Pacific Games?
Maeli: “One of the things that I’ve learnt from Shuttle Time’s fun physical activities, which will help me at the Mini Games is knowing how important the grip is and most of all how is important your body balance is.”
Betty: “Since I started learning Badminton a couple of months ago, something that i would say that I have learned was the basic rules of the game. I only played for fun but as my learning developed, I am now aware of the rules of the game and that is something that I needed to understand.”
How do you hope to inspire your Shuttle Time students with your additional experience after playing at the Pacific Games?
Maeli: “As a role model for my students, I hope that they learn new things to challenge them in any situation they face, because learning one new thing is better than doing nothing at all.”
Betty: “I think the experience I would get from the Pacific Games would really be the spirit and determination from the players. This is something that I hope to bring to my students in the Shuttle Time program, where they become more determined and have the spirit to win.”
Written by Alex Deng
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