How would you describe your role as Island Managers? What does this role entail?
A - As island managers, we are the core of our island. From bringing our people together, to organizing fundraisers, meetings, uniforms, training schedules and all other administrative aspects, we are the hub for Mauke enua. The success of the team falls hugely on the island managers as we take on huge responsibilities so that athletes only have to focus on training and competing. We all share a huge love for Mauke and want to make sure that every athlete who has chosen to compete for our island feels this same sentiment.
L - It’s definitely a full-time job though and takes a lot of commitment!
How does it feel going into the 2022 Games as reigning champions? Has this affected your preparation at all, and in what ways?
L - Feels GREAT. In 2020 we were all in it for the love of sport. The win was a bonus! It’s the same again this year, but this time with athletes from the home island.
A - We are still very proud of our accomplishment in 2020. We are the very first island to take out the Cook Islands Games, but what comes with that is pressure to regain that title. As island managers, we haven’t pushed the ‘reigning champions’ expectation on our athletes, but it is obviously very apparent. At the core of everything, we want our athletes to compete for themselves and for the pride of our little island. In regard to preparations, we try to stick to the game plan - encouraging athletes to compete at top level whilst also encouraging them to try new codes because you never know, something you never tried might actually be your next GOLD medal!
Which Islands will be Mauke’s toughest competition?
A - All islands are our competition, never count anyone out. We’re sure that not everyone had Mauke for number 1 pick to take out the Cook Islands Games 2020, and yet it happened. We have recognized a few from Mauke have gone to Mangaia, and although it was sad to see them go, we do encourage you to celebrate your other blood ties. With that being said, we think that Mangaia might be our biggest competition.
Do you anticipate these games being different to the last, and in what ways?
L - During the last games, there was a clear mission to bring people together and to encourage people from all walks of life to be active. This year it feels more competitive.
A - There is definitely a shift from the previous games with the shortage of people on-island due to moving overseas for employment purposes. A few changes include islands struggling to make numbers, the introduction of overseas participants, and the change in the age groups - all of which changes the dynamics of the Cook Islands Games for 2022.
What about the Games are you most looking forward to?
A - Coming together as a team to represent our Island and seeing new talent emerge, especially with the introduction of the new codes. To add to our campaign there are at least 20 athletes from the motherland, they have been training with multiple competitions and training camps. We are excited to have them join us in Rarotonga and see them put all their hard work into the Cook Islands Games.
What do you anticipate Mauke’s strongest events will be?
L - Like in 2020, our priority is to make sure we can field athletes in all codes & categories.
A - We don’t have specific events that we feel we might be the strongest at but we just hope that whatever we enter, we give it our all and come out with a medal.
Were there any particular challenges you faced when putting together this year's Mauke team?
A - We did face challenges, but they were similar to what we faced in the last games. Probably the hardest challenge was confirming participation of athletes especially with those in New Zealand as we hoped they would travel to compete with us again.
L - Registering enough athletes to field teams has been more challenging this time round with many having moved overseas, and our athletes have also had to navigate training for the islands as well as their regular sporting leagues and competitions.
In addition to managing the team, do any of you (Akaiti, Lora & Harriet) plan to get involved in any sports as well?
L - Of course.... we’re happy to help make up numbers in all codes if need be.
A - We’re team do it all! You will see the three of us on many of the sport stages this year getting stuck in where we can. So watch out for us at all the medal ceremonies bringing Mauke some serious hardware!