Christian Mani (left) of the gold medal winning Mauke men’s squash team and Russell Thomas of Rakahanga beam ear to ear after a brilliant adrenalin pumping squash match at the Cook Islands Games. 22110801
Squash is enjoying a renaissance with the sport being included for the first time in the Cook Islands Games, drawing out legends of the past, launching future stars, and hosting visiting squash players at the recent Cook Islands Squash Open.
And now the squash committee is preparing for its third
major tournament in the Cook Islands Squash Nationals this month with high
expectations of the best of island squash on display.
Ten island teams took part in the Cook Islands Games
tournament fielding a team of four men and four women who played their squash
individually, with points gained pooled together for an overall team result.
Squash legends were drawn out of “semi –retirement” not
wanting to miss out on the first ever squash tournament in the Cook Islands
Games although it was always part of the former Tumutevarovaro Games.
The likes of Ianis Boaza of team Atiu, Henry Iripa of team
Mauke, Tui Tuakeu of team Aitutaki and even New Zealand based squash players
such as Simon Allan for team Mangaia laced up for a diverse tournament.
Although they returned to the courts with some “aging”
doubts on their minds the legends all inspired proving their return is like
riding a bike – you never forget.
Silky old school drop and boast shots were on full display
with younger squash players absorbing any new old tricks and skills on display.
Budding and developing squash players were also in the mix
in the likes of New Zealand based squash sisters Teremoana and Porohu Maoate in
team Rakahanga while beginner squash players braved moving from the social
circuit to competitive squash and loving the move.
Rarotonga and Pukapuka fielded a team of mostly first timers
and brought some raw talent and flare to the squash courts.
In the end – there could only be one gold medal winner in
each of the men and women’s division.
In the women’s division – it was the silky experience of
Kathy Numanga-Wearing, Catherine Ben-Nicholas, Bernadette Raffe, Edwina Carlson
and Julia Kapi who took out the top honours of winning the first Cook Islands
Games squash gold medal.
Silver went to the bright ladies from Aitutaki made up of
Anita Boaza, Anne King, Maria Harreguy and Mary Ann (Shana) Kamana.
Bronze went to team Mauke made up of Nora Story-Raita,
Tuaine Turua, Tayla Beddoes and Vainepoto Tangaroa, ably supported by Rima
In the men’s division – superb squash players Robert Pareanga and Christian Mani led the way for their ‘legends’ team which included Henry Iripa, Jason Pierre and Okirua Teokoitu to take out the gold over team Rakahanga who settled for silver medal and were led by top squasher Marlon Manlangit and Russel Thomas, ably supported by Clifford Atuatika and young Pae Puna.
Bronze went to the Atiu warriors of Ianis Boaza, rugby star
Steve Willis, paddling protégé Andre Tutaka George and basketballer Kana Nga.
Congratulations to the ten island squash team that brought
colour, flare and fun to the first ever Cook Islands Games squash tournament.
Proof of the revitalisation of the sport was seeing many of
the Cook Islands Games players sign up for the Cook Islands Squash Open – the
first since the lockdown in 2020 drawing with over 50 international squash
players and their support crews to join a 30 strong contingent from Rarotonga
with a total of 84 players.
International squash players included social players and
some of New Zealand’s hottest rising squash talents – some visiting for their tenth
plus time and others coming to Rarotonga for the first time and vowing to make
it an annual pilgrimage.
Visiting squash players not only enjoyed the challenge of
playing island style squash but were giving and generous in sharing their
skills and encouragement to local players.
Despite the best efforts of the local based players – the
tournament was taken out by New Zealand rising squash couple Glenn Templeton and
Winona-Jo Joyce with second place also going to squash couple Te Aorangi
Murphy-Fell and Lauren Clarke and these are names to watch in New Zealand
Top local female award went to Anita Boaza and top local
male to Brett Baudinet.
Growing the sport of squash through more regular tournaments is one of the core goals of the Cook Islands Squash committee.
“The recent success of the Cook Islands Games and Cook
Islands Squash Opens has boosted our reach across our community and we are
excited to see more competition at the upcoming Cook Islands National Squash
tournament, Cook Islands Squash president Tutu Inamata said.
Anyone interested in starting squash, becoming a member and
playing more regularly can contact the Cook Islands Squash committee via email
on email@example.com or just rock up to the squash courts at the
multi sports complex in Nikao where you will find the squash enthusiasts
pushing each other to be better players – come join the fun! --Paporo aka-paru