It’s the Cooks’ first medal since first competing at the new Zealand-based AIMS in 2016 – a massive achievement.
They were up against some of New Zealand’s most expensive, best-equipped private schools: silver went to St Oran’s in Wellington, and gold to St Cuthbert’s of Auckland.
It had been a thrilling three days of singles action, said Cook Islands badminton president Thomas Ngauru, who is with the team in Tauranga.
Both players made it through to Division 1 after finishing at the top of their respective groups in the Round Robin competition.
Tereapii Akavi then played the match of the day, knocking out Number 2 seed Veronica Xia of Pinehurst Junior School 31-29.
The whole arena was watching in anticipation, practically hanging on every shot that was played – it wasn’t funny at all, said Ngauru.
After the match Akavi received a special medal from the organising committee in recognition of her outstanding performance. Unfortunately, Tereapii was unable to continue her winning streak losing to Helen Cao of Tauranga Intermediate.
Te Pa O Te Rangi Tupa also made it through to the Quarter finals of Division One putting up a strong performance against number 1 seed Lilian Cao of Murrays Bay Intermediate.
“This is the furthest that any Cook Islands players has ever gotten in the competition since first attending in 2016 and to do it in her first year here is amazing,” said Ngauru.
Tupa felt excited and very happy, “I have achieved beyon my brother Vaitoti's goals and efforts, when he attended the AIMS games four times!”
“I know that my mama Tu, papa Motu, my mum Tauepa and dad Vaitoti and family are proud of me, te atua te aroa.”
Ngauru gave credit to Tupa’s coaches and family for their support, especially her mother Tauepa Tutakiao-Tupa who is with the team and cheering from the side-lines.
The accolades did not end there: Nukutere College students Tuaanaore Mitchell and Tehani Matapo reached the finals of Divisions 3 and 2 respectively. Mitchell went up against last year’s Division 3 winner Chloe Eng of Sommerville Intermediate School, and after some close points she took out the match 31-27.
Tehani Matapo was actually runner-up to Chloe Eng last year in Division 3 and has managed one better, making it to the finals of Division 2 against Caroline Chen of Buckland’s Beach Intermediate. It was a closely fought much with Matapo unfortunately going down 31-19
Other standout performances came from Apii Avarua’s Setephano Vakatini who had everyone on the edge of their seats with a nail biting 31-30 win in the Quarter finals of Division 2 against Billy Li of Buckland’s Beach Intermediate. Vakatini then went on to have another epic battle in the Semis unfortunately going 31-21 to Jason Xie of ACG Parnell College.
“Our players have worked hard to get to the level they are at and the results are clearly shining through.”
With the singles competition over, the team look forward to even better results in the doubles competition which starts today at the QEII Youth Centre.
Badminton Cook Islands acknowledges the support from Cook Islanders residing in Tauranga: Tarita and Tiri John, Ngaire Utanga, Kura Rasmussen, Roimata Akaroa and Teei Heather.
The remaining team’s results were as follows: Emanuela Mataio - Division 1 Round 1, Daniel Akavi - Division 1 Round 2, Samson Harry - Division 2 Semi-finals, Kaiyin Mataio - Division 2 Round 1, Te Pa Kelly - Division 2 Round 1, Zarrian Heather-Rau - Division 3 Round 2, Maeva Kirikava - Division 4 Round 1, Loureina Kureta - Division 1 Round 2, Josephine Kureta - Division 2 Quarter-finals, Chiann Naslund - Division 2 Round 2.