It’s totally understandable for the CNMI Badminton National Team to get intimidated by host Samoa in the 2019 Pacific Games.
The Commonwealth squad was up against the home team that has a more established program, having competed in the quadrennial event for years. Add to the equation Samoa’s off-island training camp for months and any opponent will definitely feel the nerves facing a well-prepared team. The CNMI bets, on the other hand, had limited training time in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yutu and stayed on island, relying on online tutorials/videos to get ready for the Pacific Games.
“So for the most part, the team was nervous in the first day of the competion because for just about everyone, it was their first time traveling and representing the islands in any sport,” said team captain Nate Guerrero.
Today, Guerrero and company and the Northern Marianas Badminton Association marked the anniversary of their debut in the Pacific Games.
“We felt nervous challenging the Samoa specifically because we were told that they had gone to China for 2-3 months’ training. We were also nervous because we were in a different venue, different court, high ceiling, wind drift etc. However, after the first couple of points, the team definitely adjusted well and started having fun in our games. All the nerves went away and it was just like playing at home,” Guerrero said.
The CNMI National Badminton Team began to feel comfortable that it managed to steal the thunder from host Samoa after posting a 4-1 victory in the team event. Guerrero contributed one win in the upset, as he teamed up with Jordan Pangilinan in beating Charles Faalogoifo and Aukuso Sue in the men’s doubles, 21-14, 21-18. Andreau Galvez and Janelle Pangilinan also recorded a sweep in the mixed doubles after outclassing Faalogoifo and Folole Ioane, 21-17, 21-17, while Nicole Malasarte gave the CNMI a pair of wins. Malasarte first downed Lizzie Caffarelli in the women’s singles, 22-20, 25-23, and then partnered with Jordan in another mixed doubles play for a 20-22, 21-14, 21-14 triumph over Ioane and Peta Teo.
Besides topping Samoa, the CNMI also won over Kiribati, 3-2, and finished the team event at fifth place—a significant accomplishment for a team that was ranked last going into the competition. In the singles and doubles contests, the Commonwealth players also picked up a couple of victories.
But more than the wins in last year’s Pacific Games, Nate Guerrero said they valued the experience and exposure that the team and the CNMI badminton program got in Samoa. He said that for most of the countries competing in the Pacific Games, they are now aware that badminton is active in the Commonwealth.
“I remember during training before our games, people were telling us they didn’t even know badminton is played here,” said Guerrero, who hopes to get another shot at representing the CNMI in international and regional competitions.