Shuttlecock sceptic now making a badminton racket

September 6, 2018

It is a brave person who would tease Tevita Hausia.

The powerfully-built Tongan school teacher and one-time rugby player is a commanding presence.

But his passion for badminton - famous for its lithe, leaping champions - has been a source of great merriment amongst his old rugby mates, who have jokingly accused him of taking up a "girly game".

"They tease me," he says, with a grin.

"They make fun of me. I don't care. They don't understand this kind of sport.

"I say 'Whatever, man'."

In fact, Tevita says, the joke is on them, because the game has not only brought him new joy, but the opportunity to travel internationally for the first time.

Badminton is also helping him make a mark on young lives, and potentially, the sporting reputation of the tiny Pacific nation.

Most importantly, it is a passion he can share with wife, Sesilia and young daughters Luana and Kaufo'ou.

"I used to play rugby but it was by myself and for myself," the 30-year-old says.

"But this, I can play with my family and it'll keep us healthy."

Not that it was love at first sight for Tevita.

Outside its strongholds in Asia and parts of Europe, badminton is at best, little understood - at worst, written off as a pointless pastime.

Tavita admits to once being both ignorant and dismissive.

"I didn't even like badminton the first time I saw it,' he recalls, when the Australian aid-supported Shuttle Time sport for development program arrived at Kolomotu'a School.

"I sat and watched and I wasn't interested. I turned my back and walked away.

"Slowly it came to my mind that we can all play badminton - young people, kids, people who are getting old, they still play badminton.

"Tongan kids, when they are growing up, they have natural talent for any sport so when you introduce badminton into a school, they pick up the racquet and hit it like someone has already taught them.

"They want to play every day non-stop."

That revelation has led the busy father and teacher to a fascination bordering on obsession.

The one-time sceptic now spends every spare moment and cent scouring the internet for the best techniques and coaching methods.

"I'm addicted," he says.

"I'll never give up."

Shuttle Time Tonga National Co-ordinator Peti Tupouniua is stunned by the improvement in Tonga's teenage players and credits Tevita.

He took a team to the Aims Games in New Zealand last year, exceeding all expectations, and will again in 2018.

"I'm sure he is proud but he is kind of laid back," Peti says of the humble Tevita.

"I can see the bar has gone up because the kids have been exposed to that level of playing.

"They are naturally co-ordinated but getting support from people like him, one day we will produce a Jonah Lomu of badminton."

Or maybe a Luana Lomu of badminton.

Tevita is already introducing his own daughters to the fundamentals of the game.

He jokes that he may not live long enough to see a Tongan badminton champion crowned on the world stage.

Peti has no doubt.

"I can see him getting old and still putting support into training and developing the future generation of Tongans in badminton," she says.

Tevita concedes it is that dream that drives him.

"I don't know how to explain the feelings I will have that day," he says.

And that day, he will be the one teasing the doubters for their lack of faith and vision.

ABC




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