David Joe Kaniku was only introduced to Para badminton last year via the Shuttle Time Schools Programme.
Now the 17-year-old Papua New Guinean student is an Oceanian silver medallist.
Kaniku, along with teammates Jerome Bunge, Danny Ten and Nelly Ruth Leva who also discovered badminton through Shuttle Time, represented their nation at February’s VICTOR Oceania Para Badminton Championships in Ballarat, Australia. It was Papua New Guinea’s first ever international team.
The team, whose travel was supported by the Australian High Commission in Papua New Guinea, was not overawed by the occasion in the slightest – the quartet marked their debut by winning two silver and two bronze medals. It was a remarkable feat considering none of them had played on a full-sized court before.
On his maiden journey outside Papua New Guinea, Kaniku said: “I had never been on a plane so I was more excited than my teammates, but I was nervous because I didn’t know what to expect.
“I had never spoken to or met any Australians, and this was my first time going overseas and it opened my eyes to so many things.”
Not that it held him back in any way.
En route to winning silver in men’s singles Short Stature (SH6) category, the teenager overcame Australian opponents in the round-robin matches.
“I was nervous about playing, but when I realised how friendly and nice everyone was, I just relaxed and played as best as I could,” he revealed.
Now that he has experienced the joy of being on the podium, the youngster wants to do one better and win gold next time.
Papua New Guinea-based Regional Development Officer Kinivanagi Karo believes the team’s success bodes well for the sport in the country.
“Our Para athletes are maintaining the excitement from the tournament and leading our sessions back in Port Moresby for participants of all ages and abilities. This has been an awesome opportunity to create new Para athlete role models, and put PNG on the map in badminton,” Karo said.
BWF’s Shuttle Time Schools Programme is delivered by Badminton Papua New Guinea in partnership with Badminton Oceania, and funded by the Australian Government through the Pacific Sports Partnerships.
The programme creates opportunities for people of all abilities to participate in badminton and works to change perceptions of disability.
** Article was first published by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.