Until then, the players had only ventured as far as Guam (200km away) to gain competitive experience. Unlike most other teams who competed in Samoa, Northern Marianas were completely self-sufficient. The team had no coach to lead them in training and guide from the rear court and had relied on videos from YouTube and Facebook to inspire them to train and play badminton.
In the year prior to Samoa 2019, their hometown (Saipan) encountered the force of Typhoon Yutu, which caused catastrophic destruction on the island, halting the team’s preparations for the games. Yet despite all the barriers, the team turned up and opened with an inspiring victory over the home team on day one of competition.
Eventually finishing in fifth place (out of eight) during the Mixed Team competition, the team returned home with high hopes as they set their eyes on the 2022 Pacific Mini Games (previously scheduled for 2021) where they will be hosting the badminton tournament in their very own town.
Earlier this year, a Korean coach, Ji Wong Jong, visited the team to sharpen their skills.
“The training was fairly about basics, including footwork and striking the shuttle,” said Nathan Guerrero.
Unfortunately, the team’s preparations were brought to a halt once again as COVID-19 restrictions delayed Wong’s return to continue coaching with the team.
However, the team have been putting their badminton knowledge to other use, supporting the in-country Shuttle Time coordinator to deliver sessions.
During the Samoa 2019 Pacific Games, Badminton Oceania’s Development Manager, Nadia Bleaken, lead an introduction to Shuttle Time for interested players to take back to their own country so they can deliver in their communities.
“It is a rare opportunity for us to have to the face-to-face contact with these remote islands from the Pacific, so we used the breaks in between matches to teach the player’s the fundamentals of Shuttle Time.”
“The team form Northern Marianas were amazing. They live and breathe badminton on the island and I could tell they were enthused to deliver back in country as they started practising with the young volunteers in Samoa immediately,” said Bleaken.
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