Nelly Ruth Leva is an inspirational leader and athlete in Papua New Guinea’s sporting circles.
In 2020, she was part of the quartet who became PNG’s first shuttlers to compete internationally at the VICTOR Oceania Para Badminton Championships. Among them, they collected four medals.
They continued to inspire a legacy upon returning home by supporting their association to deliver a food bank project amid the global pandemic and then became qualified Shuttle Time teachers.
Leva is a regular leader in the Inclusive GymBad–PNG programme, a combined Shuttle Time and gymnastics session which aims to remove barriers faced by those with disabilities. The mother of three, also an avid track and field athlete, has qualified for the javelin event at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games and will contest the F46 final next Friday.
“As a role model to my community, I hope to inspire and motivate girls and people with disability to gain confidence, pick up a sport and attend the Inclusive GymBad programme,” said Leva.
Her sporting prowess highlights the benefits of transferrable skills between disciplines and sporting codes. Leva is a left arm amputee and classifies as an SU5 Para badminton player, bringing particular attention to the importance of the rotating trunk and left shoulder to assist the overhead technique, which is relevant to both badminton and javelin.
Building on a study by Loughborough University which sheds light on the overhead smash, Badminton Oceania reached out to one of the academic contributors and former international shuttler Harley Towler to see how the transferable skills of badminton relate to javelin.
“Research into the badminton smash has identified critical technique factors that also appear in much of the throwing literature. Much of the end-point speed (javelin or racket-head speed) can be attributed to the role of the trunk and shoulder, where being able to counter-rotate your trunk (twisting) more and achieve greater rotational speeds at the trunk and shoulder have been found to be linked to greater shuttlecock speed in the badminton smash,” said Towler.
“The overhead action is used in many sports such as badminton, tennis, cricket and throwing, with the general aim to maximise release speed, so that an opponent has less time to react or the projectile is thrown further.”
Similarly, Iosefo Rakesa is another shuttler making waves on the athletics scene. In 2018, he became Fiji’s first Para badminton representative at the Australia Para Badminton International and VICTOR Para Badminton Championships, and is in contention for a medal in javelin and shot put in Tokyo.
Para badminton is in its infancy in Oceania, with two representatives (Australians Grant Manzoney and Caitlin Dransfield) competing in Tokyo as the sport makes its Paralympic Games debut next Wednesday at the Yoyogi National Stadium.
** First published on Badminton Oceania website by Tom Leonard.