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Vanuatu athletes’ battles just to get to Friendly Games

Wednesday 27 July 2022 | Written by RNZ | Published in Regional, Vanuatu


Vanuatu athletes’ battles just to get to Friendly Games
Sherysyn Toko and Miller Pata will compete in the final Olympic qualifier. Photo: Supplied/Marius Metois

Vanuatu's 17-strong team for the Commonwealth Games has jumped through hoops to get to England.

Most of the team has little or no international experience outside of the Pacific Mini-Games held last month in the Northern Mariana Islands.

The country's star athlete and medal prospect is beach volleyballer Miller Pata, who won a bronze medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia.

She won that medal with Linline Matauatu just seven months after giving birth to her son Tommy.

This year Pata is teamed with Shersyn Toko, with the beach volleyball event being held at a makeshift court in a regenerated part of the centre of Birmingham, England.

Most of Vanuatu's athletes have been disadvantaged by poor training facilities and a lack of international competition because of Covid-19 border closures.

James Malau, chief executive of the Vanuatu Association of Sports And National Olympic Committee, said the 17 athletes qualified despite all the challenges.

"We have alot of challenges, we do not have the facilities to help them achieve their one hundred percent performance level.

"We have facilities in countries nearby such as New Zealand and Australia, but we're not able to send them to those countries because of the cost," Malau said.

In addition, obstacles such as lack of access to proper training facilities, have been compounded by restricted movements and border closures.

"With Covid-19, it makes the challenges more difficult for us due to the fact the borders are closed and we have to meet the covid protocols for each country or for our own country. This is where it becomes more challenging," said Malau.

Like most Pacific Island countries, national sporting bodies are heavily dependent on foreign aid.

Malau said Vanuatu's athletes wouldn't have been able to participate at the games without the support of foreign donors including the Commonwealth Games Federation.

Altogether 12 Pacific Islands nations and territories will be participating in the 2022 Commonwealth Games, set to kick-off on Thursday (local time) in Birmingham.

Vanuatu Athletes for the 2022 Commonwealth Games

Obediah Timbaci (Men's 200 and 400 Metres)

Elstrom Wanemut (Men's High, Long and Triple Jump)

Chloe David (Women's 100 and 200 Metres)

Ellie Enock (Women's Shotput F57)

Miller Pata and Shersyn Toko (Women's Beach Volleyball)

Namri Berri (Men's Boxing - Flyweight)

Maxence Cugola (Men's Judo -66 kg)

Joe Mahit (Men's Judo -73 kg)

Hugo Cumbo (Men's Judo -81 kg)

Marius Metois (Men's Judo -90 kg)

Veronica Tari (Women's Judo -48 kg)

Mariel Kalomor (Women's Judo -52 kg)

Roanna Abel (Womens Table Tennis)

Tracey Mawa (Womens Table Tennis)

Stephanie Qwea (Womens Table Tennis)

Ajah Pritchard-Lolo (Women's Weightlifting 87 kg)