The non-contact element of badminton became the sport’s biggest strength in 2020. As Oceania’s member countries slowly return to life after the countries announce themselves COVID19 free, or gaining greater control of the virus, small gatherings and low contact sports like badminton have been allowed to take place once again.
Cook Islands Badminton Association were one of the first to bounce back on to court after they announced themselves COVID19 free in April. Over the last two months, the association has set up seven training groups (ranging between under 9s and under 19s). A handful of the U19 players were particularly excited to return to training as they prepare to make history at the BWF World Junior Championships 2020 – being the first Cook Islands representatives to compete at the pinnacle junior event. Previously scheduled for a start date in September 2020 in Auckland, the BWF World Junior Championships has been rescheduled to take place in January 2021.
Meanwhile, the aspiring World Junior Championships competitors from Tonga have followed a similar route to New Caledonia, whose national squad players are focusing on their physical programmes before being allowed to transition to on-court team training in the coming weeks.
For many of the Pacific countries, the cancellation of the ANCHOR Aims Games 2020 came as a huge (although expected) disappointment. The annual event takes place in Tauranga, New Zealand, and is one of the biggest schools’ competition for young sportspeople across New Zealand and the South Pacific. It is an important component for many Pacific members’ player development pathway and Tier Four of Badminton Oceania’s Player Development Programme.
Capitalising on their nation’s ‘COVID19-free’ status and a legacy from the Samoa 2019 Pacific Games, Samoa Badminton Federation recently secured a contract to use the gymnasium which hosted the badminton competition last year. The venue has become the new head office for the federation (thanks to funding from The Rotary Club of Apia) and a training base for their national squad.
Shuttle Time continues to flourish throughout the Pacific, with sessions continuing to take place in Kiribati, Guam, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Cook Islands and Northern Marianas too.
Fiji Badminton are also preparing for a surge in Shuttle Time activity after delivering the Youth Leadership training course to 13 aspiring Shuttle Time teachers earlier this month.
Fiji’s team embraced innovation to form ‘backyard badminton’ – their creative adaption of Shuttle Time for smaller community groups who are allowed to converge in backyards while the nation endures stricter lockdown laws.
Badminton New Zealand were quick to respond to the uncertain year ahead by launching the LearnCoach New Zealand Badminton League. The competitive domestic league splits the nation’s top players (including Oceania’s reigning men’s singles and doubles players – Abhinav Manota and Oliver Leydon-Davis) into four sponsored teams, who will compete in a round robin league over seven weeks.
Using alternative rules: six matches in each tie, with three games to 11 points and a golden game to decide victory in the result of a 3-3 tie, the league boasts a $15,000 NZD prize pot for the winning team.
The league is available to watch on Sky Sport Next YouTube Channel every Tuesday and Wednesday from 16 June – 29 July 2020.
⏰ SAVE THE DATES! Here’s the official schedule for the LearnCoach New Zealand Badminton League ⬇️📆 Round 1 starts June 16th, 7pm
On the other side of the Tasman Ocean, lockdown laws differ between the Australian states. However, badminton courts have all re-opened for public use with a maximum of 20 people allowed in the sports hall at any one time.
Australia’s aspiring Olympian Setyana Mapasa was elated to return to court last week as some professional athletes were granted permission to resume on-court training. Alongside Gronya Somerville, the pair enjoyed a successful stint of tournaments in 2019, winning the YONEX Canada Open, and retaining their fourth consecutive women’s doubles title at this year’s VICTOR Oceania Championships 2020. However, their Olympic campaign is on hold for the time being until the revamped BWF calendar and Tokyo 2020 updated qualification criteria come into effect.
Badminton Australia recently announced an amended format for their 2020 Australian Badminton Championships for U15, U17 and U19 age groups. The events will take place in December 2020 and will be used as a selection event for the BWF World Junior Championships 2020 and the 2021 National Junior Squads.