Tonga’s Lauti Naaniumoto can’t wait for the start of tomorrow’s Oceania Mixed Team Championships and the Men’s and Women’s Team Championships.
The 23-year-old is Tonga’s Badminton Development Officer but also plays competitively and he says the Pacific Islands Player Camp is the ideal environment to prepare for not only next week but the long term.
“We all feel a high motivation here and its good to watch the better players and listen to the coaches so we can learn from them.
“We want to do well in the next tournament but we realise the level of the Australian and New Zealand players is high so we are trying to improve our skills so we can be competitive,” he said.
Naaniumoto is a gregarious character and he soaks up as much information from Camp coaches Peter Jansen and Tracey Hallam as possible, not only as a player but as a coach.
“I’ve gained some skills and knowledge from the New Zealand coaches who are running the course.
“They run their sessions well and some of the skills and modifications to our technique are good.
“I have learned a lot as a player and I understand that being flexible when dealing with different players of different levels is important.
The Shuttle Time programme is making a big impression in Tonga’s education system and in the wider community at large and Naaniumoto has nothing but praise for the effect it is having back home.
“Shuttle Time is running well and successfully in Tonga. It is increasing the pariticpating numbers in the school and community slowly.
“More people are attracted to the sport now even if the game is new. We have gained a lot of new members who are interested in this sport and discover it is a lot of fun.
“People like to be active and pretty much love to play Badminton and with Shuttle Time in the high school more people are coming in all the time.
“My aim as Badminton Development Officer is to do some training to introduce the sport, bring a lesson plan and let people have fun playing this game,” he says.
Tonga is hosting the Pacific Games in 2019 and Naaniumoto is obviouly proud his country will be centre stage – does Badminton have a place there? Naaniumoto certainly hopes so.
“The Pacific Games is exciting and it makes me happy it is hosted in Tonga so why not have Badminton in the games?
“Hopefully, we can take what we learn here in New Zealand and see Badminton star at the Games, along with our friends from Tahiti, Guam and New Caledonia.
“We’ve shown at this camp that we can all learn from each other, very fast, very quick, not just from people in our team but from all the teams here,” he said.
Naaniumoto is a bubbly character and its no surprise he has a diverse range of interests and sporting loves, deejaying and volleyball are just two.
“I love deejaying and I also love volleyball they are two other loves I have. I competed in volleyball and our local team made it to the semifinals of a local competition. Some of the skills in volleyball like eye-hand coordination is similar to Badminton.
“With deejaying I just love to entertain people, young or old, and just make people happy. Its a good way to help people to be open with each other and thats what I love the most.
“Tongans are competitive and we are good at picking up skills in sport, its almost a natural talent. I enjoy Badminton and hope I can become even better and pass on my knowledge to others,” he said.
The Oceania Mixed Team Championships takes place between 16-18 February and the Oceania Men’s and Women’s Team Championships is locked in for 19-21 February in Auckland, New Zealand.