Viral sensation, Jerome Bunge, is one of four Para badminton players from Papua New Guinea who travelled abroad for the first time to compete in the VICTOR Oceania Championships earlier this month. The team all took part in a week long training camp in January, preparing for the mental and physical challenges that lay ahead. This is also the first time that any team from PNG has competed in any international badminton event.
With the growing popularity of badminton in Papua New Guinea, yet only half marked badminton courts available to the aspiring players, the talent of Papua New Guinea’s Para badminton players could not go unnoticed as Badminton Oceania’s Coaching and Development Officer, Ian Bridge, and Regional Development Officer, Kini Karo, stepped in to lead a Para badminton development camp for 13 players in January.
Alongside the support of Papua New Guinea’s Brian Karo and BWF Shuttle Time teacher, Bella, the four eager leaders of badminton in PNG lead sessions with their adapted disability badminton knowledge to develop the skills and techniques of the aspiring players.
Additionally, the team marked out badminton courts in the correct size for the players to get a more realistic understanding of the sport. This was especially important for the four players from Papua New Guinea who competed in the VICTOR Oceania Para Badminton Championships 2020, from 13-15 February:
David Joe Kaniku
Nelly Ruth Leva
Playing on a proper badminton court at the Ken Kay Badminton Stadium was not the only new experience for the four players – it was also be the first time that they have been abroad.
“As well as developing their skills and techniques, we have been mentally preparing them for what is going to happen in Australia and learning more rules about the game,” Ian Bridge told Badminton Oceania before the Championships.
Lower-leg amputee, Jerome Bunge, went viral in 2019, for his inspirational clip of playing badminton while using his crutch, and he looked forward to putting his skills to the test in Australia.
“I am very excited about the upcoming Championships and I’m looking forward to being classified so that I can observe the style of play and techniques used by those with SL3 classification,” Bunge explained to Badminton Oceania before the Championships.
“I believe the preparations have been tough but adequate, especially with Ian, and I want to thank his dedication in helping paras here in Papua New Guniea. I know it’s not going to be easy but I will put to use what I has been taught by Ian including Brian, Kini and Nigel.”
Another newcomer to the Championships, Nelly Ruth Leva, shared mixed emotions ahead of the continental Championships.
“I am looking forward to the event but I am very nervous as is my first event. I have been playing for only a short time but am privileged to do the training we have in PNG before this event. I will do my best.”
“[I would] Also like to say thankyou to the BWF who are supporting me with a female participation grant,” Leva added.
As part of the Australian Sports Partnerships Program, the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade helped to make it possible for the players from Papua New Guinea to attend the Championships.