Teenagers Marenga Tua from Mauke, Mel Ivaiti of Mangaia and Casonya Bates from Rarotonga had the weight of the entire nation on their shoulders when they took on their peers from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, New Caledonia and hosts Tonga last month.
After a week training camp on Rarotonga, the trio headed to Tonga with coach and manager Tearoa Iorangi where they played in both the under 15 and under 18 categories and despite only being 10 and 14-years old – the Cooks trio proved to be a handful for their older counterparts during the 4-day tournament.
The mixed double combination of Marenga Tua and Mel Ivaiti proved to be a lethal one as the pairing caused upset at the tournament by defeating the more popular New Zealand pairing in the quarter finals.
However their progress to gold was cut short by Australia who took out the semi-final match with the local pairing settling for a well-earned bronze medal.
The teams second bronze medal was won by 10-year old Casonya Bates and 14-year old Marenga Tua in the girls doubles however Australia once again dash their gold medal hope with the young girls still thrilled to win bronze in their debut tournament.
The icing on the cake for the team was the selection of Marenga Tua in the Oceania Girls Cadet team after a standout performance in the singles cadet category.
It was a double celebration for the youngster who also celebrated her 14th birthday on the same day she qualified for the Oceania Girls Cadet team who will head to the World Cadet Challenge in Poland next month.
“I am very happy to qualify into the Oceania team especially on my birthday,” says a proud Marenga.
“I’m also excited that the team will be travelling to Poland, a place that I never thought I’d be travelling to.”
The team acknowledges the financial support provided to them by CISNOC through the All Sports funding, Air Rarotonga in sponsoring the two athletes’ airfares from Mauke and Mangaia as well as families on Rarotonga, New Zealand and Tonga for their encouragement and being there with the team.