Badminton: New Caledonian drawn to NZ

Michel Russo in action at the badminton at the New Zealand Masters Games. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
Michel Russo in action at the badminton at the New Zealand Masters Games. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
Dusting off the badminton racquet for a trip to New Zealand is becoming an annual chore for New Caledonian man Michel Russo - but it is a chore he loves.

The Noumea resident attended the New Zealand Masters Games for the first time last year in Wanganui and loved it so much, he has made the trip to Dunedin for this year's event.

Russo (51) has lost count of the number of games he has played this week across the teams and individual competitions.

A total of 102 players have converged on the badminton hall on Victoria Rd and the final day of the individual competitions wrapped up yesterday.

Russo had a tough match against Bo Gee Wong, of Auckland, in the men's 50-54 category before emerging victorious after three games.

He worked up a sweat on a warm Dunedin day, but it is understandable, seeing as he hardly plays competitively in New Caledonia.

In fact, his last competition was at last year's Masters Games in Wanganui.

‘‘I don't do competition [in New Caledonia] because there is no masters in Noumea. When you do competition, against you, you have 18, 20, 22-year-olds - it's too young for me.''

Russo took up badminton in his teens before giving it away 20 years ago shortly before the birth of his son Tom, now 19. He returned to the sport 10 years later, as he could not stay away.

‘‘I just love badminton - I always enjoyed badminton so ... ''

The network engineer spent most of his early years in Perpignan in the south of France - ‘‘Dan Carter played there a few years ago'' - before moving out to New Caledonia 28 years ago.

It seems like an obvious question but what does he love about living in the South Pacific?

‘‘The sun,'' Russo said.

‘‘The sea - the life is good in Noumea.

''Russo plans to return to New Zealand for the World Masters Games in Auckland next year.

‘‘I love New Zealand, I love the people in New Zealand and I love badminton, so I come.''

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