The duo, who created history at the Gold Coast Games by winning the Cook Islands’ first-ever Commonwealth medal, are taking part at the National Championships hosted at the Rarotonga Bowling Club.
Following on from their bronze-medal success, the duo said it will no doubt bring added pressure to their performance over the weekend. “We haven’t had a lot of time together to prepare for this weekend, but no doubt we will just pick up where we left off in the Gold Coast,” said Paniani. “Having a bit of a profile now will probably mean the other teams will be gunning for us, but it will be a nice measure of where we are at and what we can focus on,” he added.
Beating Malta and winning such an historic medal was still something both were coming to terms with, Paniani said.
“I really don’t think it has sunk in,” he said. “It was amazing to come back with a medal, but for it to be the first for the Cook Islands is still something that is taking time for us to get our heads around.”
Taranaki-based Zittersteijn travelled back specifically to take part in the competition, but is also enjoying some downtime catching up with friends and family. The duo have also been individually taking part in the singles competition this week, but their main focus is on their performance in the pairs.
“When we were in the Gold Coast we roomed together so we had plenty of time to really go over our strategies and training that we put in place,” said Paniani.
“The hope is that we can build on that here at the nationals and take out the title.”
With lawn bowls typically seen as a sport for the older community, both said they were hoping that they could inspire younger players to take up the game. “Initially when we started, we did get some interesting comments from our friends, but over time some have joined in and have enjoyed it,” said Zittersteijn. “It really is a game for all ages and of course all abilities.”
Competition continues today in the singles competition, with the pairs to possibly start later this afternoon, depending on results.