Pictured: Johanna Kou, New Caledonia (left). Photo Credit: Badminton Photo, Luis Veniegra.
This year, badminton will feature at the Pacific Mini Games for the first time in the Northern Marianas 2022 edition (rescheduled from its original date in 2021). Two-time mixed team champions, New Caledonia, will enter the tournament as top seeds based on the world ranking points of their players. Spearheaded by the experienced Johanna Kou (also a Badminton Oceania Executive Board member) who is also among the top seeds of the individual events.
During the Samoa 2019 Pacific Games, Johanna’s ongoing legacy proved a success as she took home a silver in the team event and mentored the younger Dgenyva Matauli onto the podium (who won gold in the women’s singles and doubles alongside Johanna). Johanna has an impressive track record at Pacific Games events, having won the following medals in previous tournaments:
- Fiji 2003: Team Event – Silver
- Samoa 2007: Team Event – Gold , Women’s Singles – Silver, Women’s Doubles – Gold, Mixed Doubles – Gold
- New Caledonia 2011: Team Event – Gold, Women’s Singles – Bronze, Women’s Doubles – Gold, Mixed Doubles – Silver
- Samoa 2019: Team Event – Silver, Women’s Doubles – Gold, Mixed Doubles – Bronze
It is a promising sign to see a new generation of players coming through this year under Johanna’s leadership, with some new players getting a taste of the international stage. Therefore, Badminton Oceania caught up with Johanna to gain a greater understanding of New Caledonia’s preparation for the upcoming tournament:
You are highly experienced on the Pacific badminton scene – particularly in the Pacific Games space. What keeps you motivated to keep playing and coaching?
“I am able to stay motivated to play because I still have the physical condition to play badminton at a good level. Also, it’s a challenge for new players to be able to defeat me. Badminton has brought me so much in life that my goal as a coach is to share my experience with the young people that I supervise. It is so enriching.”
What can your past experience and leadership bring to the table for other New Caledonia players competing at the Pacific Games?
“My past experience and leadership has allowed me to advise other players about my recommendations and ideas on the course of the trip. This also includes the rules on being respected in the village, outside and on site of the competition.”
In 2019, Dgenyva broke the mould to become the Women’s Singles Champion. Are there any future talent or players in New Caledonia that we should keep an eye on?
“I hope Dgeniva will continue to play Badminton at this level or higher. She is young, who is still the best Women’s Singles player currently. There is also Soizick Ho-Yagues , who was with us at the SPG 2019. Unfortunately, she injured her Achilles tendon and is now in rehabilitation at the moment. The rest that you should keep an eye on are our young girls Marine Naveros and Marine Souviat who have both trained hard to increase their level.”
What is the one piece of advice you would give to future generation of players?
“There is no secret if you want to become the best player. You need to have a steel mind to train hard and efficiently. You must try to always surpass yourself to progress towards excellence. It will require a healthy lifestyle and a good spirit with the greatest respect for the sport.”
Written by Alex Deng
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