Teitiria Utimawa and Tinabora Takeiaki are jumping for joy as their inspiring success is rippling across the Pacific to their home country Kiribati, where more women are being inspired to play badminton.
Having based themselves in Melbourne over the last year with coach, Dean Lewis, the girls have stormed into the Oceania badminton scene.
With barely any international experience under their belt, the duo competed at the Samoa 2019 Pacific Games last July, where their unbeaten run was narrowly stripped by Fiji’s Karyn and Andra Whiteside (over three close games). However, it was still an incredible feat given that their opponent’s experience spanned across two Commonwealth Games (2006 and 2018) and the TOTAL BWF Sudirman Cup 2017.
Since then, the pair competed in the Perth International and South Australia International in 2019 – with Utimawa celebrating a victory in both the women’s singles and doubles at their first BWF Future Series event.
Moreover, the pair went on to make the quarterfinals at this year’s VICTOR Oceania Championships 2020 and then one month later, returned to the same courts to win the women’s doubles title at the Ballarat A Grade tournament.
Utimawa had been a potential contender for a place in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, through the Tripartite Commission, which allows for participation by athletes from National Olympic Committees who would, through normal qualification processes, have little or no representation at the Games. However, the process is put on hold and to be reviewed following the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
News of their success has continued to make its way back to the distant islands of Kiribati where Shuttle Time is beginning to thrive. Last year, Kiribati Badminton Federation trained 10 new Shuttle Time teachers and delivered to over 600 Shuttle Time participants – of which 40% are women experiencing badminton for the first time.
“The interest this has generated in Kiribati is outstanding. We know that there are more women involved than ever before, from little kids to elderly women. I hope that we have inspired these women to participate. We hope that we can be role models for the kids too as they continue their journey in sport”
“We’re eager to go back and help deliver Shuttle Time activities and also upskill the teachers, coaching kids and correcting skills early so they don’t repeat the mistakes we made”, says Tinabora and Teitiria.
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