Overcoming record-size tumour; Iakopo dedicates time and passion to growth of badminton in Tuvalu

Tuvalu Badminton Association’s President, Iakopo Molotii, discovered badminton in 2005 when he joined some of the islands expatriates to play badminton socially. He took a liking to the sport and quickly built up the foundations of Tuvalu Badminton, affirming their membership with Badminton Oceania in 2006, and attending the 2007 Pacific Games as both a coach and player in the badminton and tennis competition.

Since then, badminton has made gradual progress on the island. Despite being the least visited country in the world and (like many other Pacific countries) lacking access to badminton courts, Tuvalu Badminton Association now has access to Shuttle Time and AirBadminton equipment and Iakopo oversees the organisation and delivery of outdoor sessions for the villages.

However, Iakopo’s badminton journey took a turn in 2017. While applying for an Australian visa, he had to undergo a routine health scan which had identified a tumour. Two years later, Iakopo was referred to Fiji, before being diverted to India to undergo ‘robotic surgery’ to remove what the surgeons claimed to be the largest tumour in the thoracic cavity ever recorded.

The operation was a debilitating experience for Iakopo, changing up his usual face-to-face Shuttle Time delivery for a desk at home, utilising the internet to find any means of contact upon his network to deliver Shuttle Time activities in his absence. Despite his experience with the tumour and recovery, Iakopo is still determined to commit to badminton in his country.

Recently, he came to the Badminton Oceania Head Office in Auckland to discuss future objectives for the association, driven by the opportunities that badminton holds for the future generations.

“Badminton was never an opportunity for me as a kid. No one guided us, nor encouraged us. Programmes such as Shuttle Time did not exist.”

“Sport was not as prominent because the daily chores were usually of physical nature that required hard work and usually manually done. Today that lifestyle I had as a kid is completely different where most work is done by machines. Therefore, sports or physical activities should be encouraged more to support healthy living these generations of technology.”

“For talented and committed kids, badminton can have a great positive impact on the socio-economic development of Tuvalu,” said Iakopo.

Tuvalu Badminton in action

Looking forward to the future with an optimistic outset for badminton, Iakopo and his wife Asita Molotii (who also sits on the Badminton Oceania Gender Equity Committee) are excited to continue the growth of badminton in Tuvalu. Using the resources of both Shuttle Time and AirBadmitnon equipment, the duo plan to place an emphasis on gender equity and human rights.

“We want to make people feel included and ensure men, women, boys and girls get equal chances to participate and benefit from the sport. Change has to start from within. Empowering young people to be positive agents of change for a more hopeful, trusting and peaceful world is extremely important. They have to believe that we as ordinary people can make something bigger than one self.”

“Badminton is one route to achieving such respect. We would like it to be seen by the people of Tuvalu as a sport that brings communities together, makes everyone feels important and is available to all,” said Iakopo.

Follow the latest updates from Tuvalu Badminton on their Facebook page.

Article adapted from Badminton Oceania website.