“Okay girls, choose whatever you like – running shoes, casual sneakers, spikes…… It’s my donation to the Vanuatu Paralympic team!” instructed Henry Otto at his sports store “Stringer’s Sports Store” in Clayton, Melbourne last week.
“We’ve also had another sponsor who does not want to be named who will pay for competition crop tops, so when you’ve finished here with your shoes, it’s on to choosing clothes to match!”
Friana Kwevira (javelin), Dephnny Naliupis (100 metres runner) and Marcelline Moil (javelin) grinning broadly, chose their shoes from the huge range available in the store.
The Vanuatu Commonwealth Games Parathletics team were in Melbourne completing their official classification into parathletics competition categories, undertaking a raft of physical and medical tests to ensure that when they compete, it’s against parathletes with similar levels of difficulty or impairment.
Only last year when our parathletes were trying for re-selection, they were told to leave the track as they were barefoot and did not own the correct types of shoes required for official competitions on artificial surfaces.
“A long term investor had read about the fantastic results these girl are achieving and made the offer of the donations of clothing and shoes.
“However she wanted it to be anonymous,” explained Vanuatu Paralympic Committee Treasurer Liz Pechan.
“It’s this sort of generosity and community support that is making our bid for the Commonwealth Games possible.”
The Parathletics Program has achieved much in the last year – 3 medals in the Pacific Mini Games, selection on merit into the Commonwealth Games next month, donations of equipment through the Australian High Commission’s Direct Assistance Program, support from the Carbine Club and Kiwanis, VASANOC, coaching programs through Oceania and the Agitos Foundation and an MYSD&T Mini Games Grant.
The Vanuatu Paralympic Committee hopes to reach out into Tafea and Malampa Province in the next two quarters.
The Committee found such amazing athletes in Santo with just one Talent Identification Program – who knows the talent that is still out there in other islands?
With the Melanesian Games in May, Samoan Games in 2019 and the Tokyo Paralympics in 2020, Vanuatu Parathletes have a lot to aim for!
Whether it was the high quality new shoes, the high standard of coaching in the Melbourne Program or the dream of things to come, all three parathletes improved their times and distances with personal bests.
Only a few weeks left to go, let’s hope the new shoes continue to track the path to competition success.