(NMBA) — TakeCare Insurance Company Inc. marked its inaugural sponsorship of a sports tournament in the CNMI with a junior competition in the TakeCare Badminton Open 2021.

Fourteen players signed up for the junior division of Northern Marianas Badminton Association’s third event of the season and they are products of NMBA’s junior development program and the recent summer camp. It’s the first time that the association hosted a separate competition for players in the U18 age group.

“It’s encouraging to see many young players joining the TakeCare Badminton Open 2021 and  TakeCare would like to commend the NMBA for making the program available to our youth.  We hope to see more young players joining this kind of competition and getting involved in activities that encourage a health and balanced lifestyle,” TakeCare health plan manager Nora Fejeran during the opening ceremony of the tournament Friday at the Gilbert C. Ada Gymnasium.

The junior players in the TakeCare Badminton Open 2021 saw action in singles over the weekend and will continue to play the event and the mixed doubles next weekend. The junior boys field is made up of Prince Calvo, Peter John White, Marlon Bautista Jr., Kyle Manuel, Gregory Ngotel, Kyle Salcedo, and Andre Zapata. The girls division, on the other hand, has Kaya Braxton, Charmaine Bautista, Angieleysha Punzalan, Mikayla Cunanan, Angel Joyce Reyes, Kiesha De Guzman, and C.J. Zapanta.

Salcedo is in the quarterfinals of the winner’s bracket of the boys singles, which has a double-elimination format, after beating Ngotel, 11-8, 11-5. Ngotel, before losing to Salcedo prevailed over White in the opening round match, 11-8, 3-11, 11-3. Bautista and Zapata also won their opening games after topping Kyle Manuel, 11-6, 11-8, and Calvo, 6-11, 11-7, 11-10, respectively.

In the girls singles, which also has a double-elimination format, Punzalan is also in the quarterfinals following an 11-8, 11-6 triumph over Braxton. A 6-11, 11-8, 11-8 victory over Bautista moved Braxton to a second-round meeting with Punzalan, while De Guzman outclassed Reyes in the other opening round match in the division, 11-5, 11-4.

NMBA president Merlie Tolentino is pleased that the association’s junior program has made a significant stride with the inclusion of a junior event in the TakeCare Badminton Open.

“It has always been our goal to build a strong program for our youth. Badminton is relatively a new sport in the CNMI so it’s been a challenge to promote it. However, through the support of companies like TakeCare and our other sponsors plus the guidance from Badminton Oceania and Badminton World Federation, we are able to reach out to the community, including the schools, by holding competitions and clinics for them,” Tolentino said.

The NMBA president added that the CNMI National Team’s historic stint in the Pacific Games in Apia, Samoa also allowed badminton to gain mileage in the Commonwealth. Next year, Tolentino is positive that the sport will draw more followers and support, as the Commonwealth hosts the Pacific Mini Games with badminton included in the program.

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