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Tuesday 24 May 2016 | Published in Regional


VANUATU – A Vanuatu sportsman has become the first rower from his country to qualify for the Rio Olympics.

24-year-old Luigi Teilemb only starting competing five years ago and has represented Vanuatu at three senior world championships.

He missed out on automatic qualification, having finished 13th out of 20 at last months Asia-Oceania Championships in Korea – the top seven qualified directly – but was awarded a place in Brazil by the International Olympic Committee.

The Oceania representative for the international rowing federation, FISA, Lee Spear said the gap between the top seven and Teilemb’s finish in Korea was very slight and his Olympic berth is deserved recognition.

“Luigi and a lad from Libya were successful and were offered invitation places so that’s a recognition really of their promise and also the commitment they’re showing to rowing.”

Spear said he first came across Teilemb in 2011 when he was working in Vanuatu.

He said Teilemb has shown great progress in the past few years, developing from a member of a lightweight doubles pairing in 2013, to a lightweight single sculler a year later before moving up to the heavyweight class in order to achieve his Olympic dream.

“While most people focus upon who’s going to win the single sculls at the Olympics there are other battles all the way down the line as well for the international rankings so Luigi will be desperately trying to make a C final.”

Luigi Teilemb has been training full-time in Hamilton, New Zealand, since November last year thanks to an Olympic Solidarity scholarship and has previously trained in Tunisia.

Spear says they are now making plans for his schedule leading up to the Olympics.

“He will go up to Europe. The Australian Institute of Sport have a European training centre and they’ve kindly offered accommodation for Luigi and his coach Matt Cameron in Italy and they will be based there for a few weeks and go up to Poland for World Cup 3 and then off to Rio about July 23.”