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A victory for Vanuatu before World Championships start
Miller Elwin and Henriette Iatika will make history on Monday when they become the first women’s team from Vanuatu and from the South Pacific to participate in the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships.
Along with Paraguay and Thailand, Vanuatu are making their debuts in the FIVB premier beach volleyball event.
Elwin and Iatika have been playing on the FIVB World Tour since 2008, their best result dating back to Shanghai 2012 where they finished 17th at the Grand Slam. Both players want to make their families and country proud with their debut at the FIVB World Championships.
“I have been training hard for the last few years and we have improved so much along the way. It’s been very difficult to leave our children and families behind to chase our dream, but now we get a chance to represent them to the best of our ability”, Elwin said.
Like other athletes, the Vanuatu women had to give up a lot to reach the top.
“I have sacrificed my life at home to become the best I can be,” Iatika said. “I have two kids who stay on the island while I am away training and competing because I want to take part. I want to make my family and country proud of me and I want to show all the young people in Vanuatu what is possible if you try hard.”
Being the first women’s team from the South Pacific to go all the way to the World Championships is a huge deal for them. Elwin: “My dad encouraged me to start playing so I would be the first person in my family to ever go on a big aeroplane. Now I hope that the people at home can follow our lead and more women and junior players will start to take part in proper sports training and try their every best. I also hope that some people back home can see at least one of our games.”
Elwin, 25, and Iatika, 28, claimed their ticket to Poland after beating Australia in the finals of the Oceania Championships in Tahiti last year. According to their coach Lauren McLeod it was not easy to qualify. “Our preparation has been very disjointed and we had to struggle through some very tough times to bounce back from narrowly failing to qualify for the 2012 Olympics. We had to regroup and refocus as a team with new goals and a new purpose.”
They also had to overcome old Vanuatu beliefs and prejudices, said coach McLeod. “The struggle and sacrifices have been enormous, every athlete on tour knows ho how hard it is to leave friends and family behind for such long periods of time and my team is also doing so against all the tradition female roles and beliefs about what is appropriate for women in Vanuatu.”
Despite these struggles and the 30 hours of travelling to get to Europe she is convinced that her team is ready to make Vanuatu proud. “The journey has been full of ups and downs and for two steps forward there is always one step back as well, but the team is here and in good competitive shape at the 2013 World Championships. We are looking forward to the competition beginning on Monday and will be looking to do Vanuatu and the entire pacific proud.”
Vanuatu’s first match on Monday starts at 16.00 against Poland’s Renata Bekier and Agata Oleksy.