Tahitian Badminton’s Leo Cucuel says on court rivalries have been set aside at the Pacific Islands Players Camp.
Tahiti and New Caledonia have a sporting rivalry that stretches back decades in everything from swimming to football, tennis to Waka Ama, to Badminton.
But Cucuel says that isn’t important at the Badminton North Harbour facility on Auckland’s North Shore – at least for now.
“The rivalry is on-court only, off-court the players are friends and in some cases we’ve known each other for six or seven years.
“But once you’re on court there are no friendships, its intense competition.
“We compete every year in the Oceania championships and we’ve never beaten New Caledonia. Last time we came fourth behind New Caledonia and Fiji and then last time they beat us for third place.
“Hopefully, this time we can get a first bronze medal for Tahiti,” Cucuel said.
With the Pacific Islands Player Camp into its second day and one or two players showing signs of weariness from a compact programme, Cucuel remains effusive in his praise for the Badminton Oceania run programme.
“The highlight for us is to face other players from different countries and that is very important because back home we train but do not get this exposure.
“It is also good to work with new experienced coaches and playing other players is a very good opportunity for us.
“It is difficult because there are a lot of sessions and testing to do and knowing we have a tournament next week we have to prepare well,” he said.
Tahiti have one or two players with small niggling injuries but Cucuel says these occurred before the team departed Papeete and was factored in to their planning for the camp and competition.
“Two of our players came to Auckland carrying small injuries before we left Tahiti but we knew this and I told them to focus on the competition next week,” he said.
Cucuel said he and his team-mates enjoyed the coaching received from Peter Jansen and Tracey Hallam. He says an important part of each day is reviewing key learnings and deciding what could be implemented back in Tahiti.
“Peter and Tracey are amazing. They see everything and I’m learning everyday from them and its very interesting for me and my team-mates.
“After every session I always ask the players what they thought of the sessions and what they think we could implement back home.
“I’m really impressed our players are learning a lot. They recognise the differences between the training at home and the training here, so we have learned so much in a short time,” he said.
With the Oceania Mixed Team Championships and Oceania Men’s and Women’s Team Championships next week, Cucuel is determined Tahiti will learn a lot from the exercise.
“Some of our players have played Australia and New Zealand at the junior level but not senior, so we’re going to see there is a big difference.
“But this is good for us because the earlier you start to compete with the best athletes the better you will be next time, it will be very good for us,” 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.