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After a 7-year absence, the Fijian Teams emerged for the VICTOR Oceania Team Championships 2018 this week.
When speaking with the Women’s Team from Fiji, the players were excited to be competing as a team again in international competition since the 2010 Oceania Open Mixed Team Championships in Invercargill, New Zealand.
Karyn Gibson (née Whiteside) says “it’s been a long time” since she had competed in a “big” competition and last competed at the Oceania Championships in 2006. Competing at the BWF Sudirman Cup 2017 at the Gold Coast was when she was “just coming back into badminton”. Similarly, her sister Andra Whiteside and cousin Danielle Whiteside also returned from hiatuses to represent Fiji at the BWF Sudirman Cup last year.
Fellow teammate Alissa Dean also picked up the sport again for the Fijian Women’s Team, last competing internationally in 2011.
“This is my second Oceania Championships…[and] my first international tournament back. And I think we did pretty well. We did better than we thought we would… the results are pretty good.”
The youngest member of the team, Carline Bentley has enjoyed playing alongside her seasoned teammates for the first time in many years.
“It’s been good – challenging.”
Accompanying the Fijian teams at the VICTOR Oceania Team Championships 2018 is President of the Fiji Badminton Federation, Barry Whiteside – who happens to also be the father of Karyn Gibson and Andra Whiteside.
“It’s been great. The girls had a good start this morning. We did better than we thought. It gives them more confidence in terms of their game now going forward in events”, Barry reflects after their opening tie against the New Zealand Women’s Team.
In preparing the players for their international comeback, the Fijian teams have been training with Australian coach and badminton player, Brent Munday at training camps since last September. However, Barry knows there is a steep hill to climb for the remaining days of the VICTOR Oceania Championships.
“We got this smaller squad [of players] to come and try and fight for selection for the Commonwealth Games... But this is top competition, and this is the only elite competition that we have had for years.
“It was a bit tough for our players coming over. But anyway, we said we’d enjoy ourselves. And play as best we can and I think our results are coming out – they’re playing okay.”
Of what keeps these ladies coming back to the Oceania Championships, Danielle says, “It’s a good experience. I love watching the other countries. It changes your style of playing and you feel you push yourself to the limits.”
The Fijian Women’s Team are preparing for their final tie against the team from Tahiti this afternoon, at the Waikato Badminton Stadium in Hamilton, New Zealand.
“Hopefully against Tahiti we’ll have a very close match and be able to compete well”, Barry maintains.
This positive attitude resonates amongst all members of the team regardless of their age and experience. And as Carline had put it, “Just give it your all.”