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The following article was published by Matangi Tonga Online - Tonga's Leading News Website (Wednesday, January 18, 2017) Nuku'alofa, Tonga
‘Ilisoni Niukapu (29), a Para Badminton player is Tonga’s latest rising sports talent, who hopes to be able to represent Tonga at the Tokyo Paralympics in 2020.
Soni (short for ‘Ilisoni) made an impression when he competed at the National Australia Para Badminton tournament in Melbourne last November.
In the Men’s Double, Soni with his partner Richard Engles from New South Wales won the Men’s Double – Wheelchair classification. Soni also won four out of five single matches in the Wheelchair Category.
Peti Tupouniua, the Tonga National Shuttle Time coordinator who accompanied Soni to the Melbourne Para Badminton Tournament told Matangi Tonga that Soni’s performance was impressive.
She said that in September last year, the Pacific Sports Partnership program, funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade launched the “Shuttle Time Training” and provided badminton equipment to schools and communities in Tongatapu, Ha’apai, Vava’u and ‘Eua.
During their program in Tongatapu for 5-15 years olds, they also invited handicapped people. ‘Ilisoni attended and became very interested.
“He came on his wheelchair all the way from Hala’ovave to the TASANOC office at Haveluloto where we had the training program,” said Peti.
Soni’s talent was spotted by Nadia Bleaken (Badminton Oceania, Development Manager), after they met at the Olympic Sport Education Program in October 2016.
“She could see his talent and how keen he was and that was why they decided to take him to Australia in October for the competition in November,” said Peti.
Soni also has the support of Sports Ambassador, Dame Valerie Adams by putting her Olympic Gold medal around his neck when she visited Tonga late last year.
Soni is now setting his sights on the Australian Tournament in February 2017, and the World Championship in South Korea in November 2017.
‘Ilisoni is married with two children. He lost his legs in a road accident in 2012.
Since November 2016 he has been employed by (Tonga National Badminton Federation, to deliver Australian Aid-funded Pacific Sports Partnership) the Shuttle Training Program and hoping that he will be able to represent Tonga at the Tokyo Paralympic in 2020.
1. 'Ilisoni with medal, Melbourne 2016
2. 'Ilisoni in action at Australian Para Badminton Championships, Melbourne 2016
3. 'Ilisoni at Oceania Sport Education Program coaching workshop, Nuku'alofa October 2016
4. Shuttle Time at Tongan Ministry of Health FieFia Sports Day, Nuku'alofa October 2016
5. 'Ilisoni & Peti with Heath Davidson - Australian Rio Paralympic gold medalist, Melbourne 2016
6. 'Ilisoni with Valerie Adams - New Zealand's multiple Olympic gold medalist
7. Australian Para Badminton Championships, Melbourne November 2016