Georges Langa, from Mele Village, has been invited to compete in the Australian National Para Rowing Championships from 27th to 31st March in Sydney. It’s a first in many ways.

Langa first started rowing only a year ago but has now honed his rowing skills to the point where he is in full training with Vanuatu’s Elite Rowing Squad, training between 14 – 21 kilometres a day plus gym work plus cross training. It’s a demanding physical schedule compounded by the fact that Langa lives in Mele and the Rowing Shed is below The Holiday Inn’s Golf Course. Langa was the first person living with a disability to join the Rowing Club’s newly established para rowing program.

At 4am every day except Sundays, Langa rides his bike all the way from Mele to the Rowing Club, so there’s no need to get on one of the eight spin cycles in the Club’s gym to warm up.

The brand new Mountain Bike was organised for him by a fellow para-rower from Australia, Steve Knott from the St George Rowing Club. Steve brought the bike, donated by Bikes4Life, over to Vanuatu last year to present to Langa with other bike riding equipment.

Tara Huntley, Liaison Officer of Para Rowing Australia, organised things like a dynamo, a high-vis vest and bike gloves to try to make Langa’s long ride to Tassiriki safer.

Tara’s involvement has been key to getting Langa prequalified for the Australian Championships, visiting three times to help get Rowing Vanuatu’s Para Rowing Program kick-started and to provide advice on Langa’s training regime. Tara has entered Langa in 5 races – a range of singles, mixed doubles and quads.

“I’m quietly excited,” commented Tara on her most recent visit two weeks ago, “Georges is the very first para rower – not only from Vanuatu – but the first from the whole of the South Pacific! Georges’ times are really competitive, he’s really fit and I think he could give our very best Australian para-rowers a real fright!”

Of course, there is also the consideration that this is Georges’ first international competition. It’s to be held on the Australian Olympic Games venue at Penrith in front of huge crowds and televised and Georges will have to row in lanes for the first time in his life– all very daunting! Langa is a fluent French speaker so the prospect of speaking Aussie English for two weeks is also a challenge!

Sponsorship for Langa has come from Tara Huntley herself who organised a Go-Fund-Me site to secure money for Vanuatu’s para program generally.

This will pay for Langa’s airfare. Para Rowing Australia has donated a two day intensive training program for Langa before the races begin and waived entry fees. Port Vila Rotary has donated Vt25,000 towards Langa’s expenses and the Rowing Club is holding a Lagoon Cruise – already sold out! – to try to fund the other considerable costs such as uniforms, accommodation and per diems.

The Club already has the 2020 Tokyo Para Olympics firmly in sight not only for Langa but for the other para rowers now training regularly. If you would like to assist in any way contact Margaret Macfarlane, the Club’s Para Rowing Programme Coordinator on mmacfarlane@amcvanuatu.com

Raymond Nasse

Sports Editor

raymond@dailypost.vu

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