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Stage set for regional tournament

Friday 27 May 2022 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Badminton, Sports

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Stage set for regional tournament
Thomas Mereana-Ngauru, president of Badminton Cook Islands, Julie Carrel, secretary-general/ CEO of Badminton Oceania, Ngaoa Ranginui, Badminton Oceania executive board member and Badminton CI vice-president and Badminton Oceania president Loke Poh Wong. Photo: Melina Etches/22052602

Former badminton (senior) world champion Loke Poh Wong, who was recently elected the president of Badminton Oceania, will participate in the Oceania Masters in Paradise 2022 team tournament which starts this morning at the National Sports Arena in Nikao.

This is his first official visit and first tournament in the Cook Islands.

Looking trim and fit at the age of 64, he has already started training with his local team.

Born in Malaysia, he started playing as a kid. “It’s a natural sport for us, you’re born with it, you know how to play and the resources in Asia with badminton is very strong,” Wong said.

“It’s such a good sport where its competitive and family orientated, not like other sports … with badminton you can have the whole family on court.”

The Masters competition is great for the senior players and the location is an added bonus, says Wong, adding “we are looking at bringing in some other tournaments like the junior championships”.

“We hope to do this event every two years and hopefully get other islands involved, it is a very sought after event in the senior calendar.”

Wong has won four world (senior) championship medals – one silver and three bronze: 2011 – Vancouver, Canada – silver, 2013 – Ankara, Turkey – bronze, 2015 – Helsingborg, Sweden – bronze, 2017 – Kochi, India – bronze.

Sharing advice to upcoming players, he said: “First thing is to be passionate about the sport and the rest will come.”

“One doesn’t have to be the top, the biggest, the fastest players, there are many aspects of the sport members can embrace.”

Teams from New Zealand and Australia arrived this week for the tournament.

Julie Carrel, the secretary general/chief executive of Badminton Oceania, said initially the event was scheduled to be held in 2020 but postponed due to Covid-19.

“This is great, we’ve made it happen and we’ve ironed out the kinks,” said Carrel.

“The Cook Islands is our best Pacific country around development, they understand development, they’re bringing their kids through and developing some really good players and their organisations, hand in hand.

“We support them, and they support what we do and they deliver for us, it’s a win, win,” said Carrel, who also praised the work of Thomas Mereana-Ngauru, the president of Badminton Cook Islands and vice president Ngaoa Ranginui, who is also a Badminton Oceania executive board member.

Mereana-Ngauru says he’s more than excited and relieved that the Sports Arena was made ready in time for the tournament.

“Thanks to CIIC (Cook Islands Investment Corporation) for making this happen for us.”