Two schools from the Cook Islands and one from Tonga have added a truly international flavour to the badminton tournament at this week's AIMS Games.

The 12 children from the islands had travelled further than any of the other 9300 and it was the first time they have competed in New Zealand.

Thomas Ngaurum, manager of both the Apii Avarua School and Nukutere College teams from Rarotonga, said they are grateful for assistance from Badminton Oceania and also Cook Islands Badminton.

"Oceania came to us and said this would be a great competition to come to as part of our player development because it would be at a great level for us. So we said yes we would love to come to the AIMS Games," he said.


"The fundraising they did do was in the last three months which is the period we have been training with them. They did mufti days and badminton marathons.

"Definitely at first they were a bit nervous as this is the first time we have ever taken any kids to any international competition so we did not know what to expect.

"There is a big variation between the ones at the bottom and the ones right at the top, which is good for our kids so they get to experience all different kinds of players."

Badminton was on an upward curve in popularity in the Cook Islands just as it was in New Zealand.

"It died off for a while but now has been revitalised over the past two to three years. We are going into the schools now and doing work with them. Hopefully we can raise the code up," Ngaurum said.

Badminton Oceania Development Manager Nadia Bleaken said AIMS Games were a key part of encouraging player development.

"The Shuttle Time schools' badminton programme is global and we are using that to teach teachers to give them the skills, knowledge and confidence to give fun badminton lessons to kids in schools.

"I came to AIMS for the first time last year with the Tongan coach who is here, to have a look at the competition and give some Shuttle Time training to teachers from all over the country.

"Long term view is to have some Pacific athletes represented at the Olympic Games. This is the first part to bring these kids out of the islands to come to somewhere bigger and get a taste for what it is like."

AIMS badminton co-ordinator Delwyn Cooper was encouraged by the increase in children competing this week, which she said was a sign of the growth in popularity of badminton at this age group.

"We have 177 players this year so that is 52 more than last year," she said.

"It is great that we have 10 courts this year as we only had eight last year. It has made a big difference.

"Thanks to Badminton New Zealand who actually organised the draw and did the schedule for us which makes life a lot easier for us."