For the first time ever in the history of the staging of the National Games, the Local Organising Committee, strongly supported by Athletics Vanuatu, the Ministry of Youth Development & Sport and VASANOC, included athletes living with a disability in the National Games Athletics Program. This inclusion of parathletes in the National Games has captured global attention with positive comments coming in from Japan, Europe, Australia, Oceana nations and New Zealand.
“As President of Athletics Vanuatu, I was determined to recognise the growing athletics achievement of Vanuatu’s parathletes by showcasing their growing leagues in Tafea, Sanma Malampa and Shefa by including para events.,” remarked Rex Issachar. “It was easy to follow the example of the 2017 Mini-Games, the 2018 Melanesian Athletics Championships and of course the 2018 Commonwealth Games by integrating parathletic events into our National Games Program We’ll be showcasing our parathletes again in Samoa for the Pacific Games in July.”
Wendy Timosi, Disability Desk Officer for Tafea from the Ministry of Justice and Community Services (MJ&CS) remarked, “I had many families with children with an impairment buy tickets and come to see our parathletes compete at Lamenu Stadium. It’s so important for the community and the families to recognise the very real athletic abilities of our parathletes. It encourages our young disabled people to come out of the dark corners and try sport. They can meet new friends, enjoy healthy exercise and of course improve our community’s understanding and acceptance of people living with a disability.”
With the strong Provincial Outreach strategy of the Vanuatu Paralympic Committee, volunteer coaches in provincial centres of Lakatoro, Luganville, Isangel have received para coaching training funded by the International Paralympic Committee’s Agitos Foundation as have the two squads in Vila operating from Ecole Central and Wan Smol Bag. Funding from the Australian High Commissions Direct Assistance Program (DAP) has meant sports equipment has been provided to Tanna and Lugamville.
“Without the generous support of our main sponsors such as ASCO Motors (Toyota), BRED Bank, Kiwanis Club and Credit Corp targeted at Provincial Outreach, we would never have been able to run these programs,” commented Margaret Macfarlane VPC President. “Our program in Malekula is new. We have just identified coaches such as Mankon Jossie for the Lakatoro squad training weekly but next National Games we’ll have parathletes from there as well as Penama and Torba. We hope to visit the latter two provinces later this year.
“There’s obviously so much parathletic talent in the provinces, we just need to get out there and find new talent – just like we did with Friana Kwevira and our parathletes showing off their expertise in the National Games.”
The results testify to the VPC’s strong league approach with Tafea taking out 25 points, Vila 16, Shefa 12 points, Luganville 11 and Sanma 9 points. Several of the top female parathletes could not compete because of illness, family issues or work commitments.
Noella Roberts, a blind athlete took out 3 golds in Shot Put, 400 and 100 metres. Ken Kahu representing Shefa won gold in javelin and silver in the 100 metres.
Mathias Nakat from Tafea added to his Arafura silver medal with gold in the 100 metre and 400 metre races while a new parathlete Ben Kasiapan took silver in javelin. David Niere showed his speed on the track with silver in the 400 metres run. Peter Dick Marcel Houssimoloi and Emmanual Garoleo also medalled. Jack Maory from Lugaville made his long sea voyage from Santo on wild, stormy seas worthwhile with gold in Seated Shotput.
“When you look at Ken Kahu throwing 47.60 metres at the Arafura Games to be ranked 4th in the word, it’s no wonder that the world’s attention is focusing on Vanuatu!” responded Henry Vira, Director General of the Ministry of Youth Development & Sport.
“I can’t throw a javelin that far! The competition also gave us all the opportunity to see for ourselves the athletic prowess of our parathletes who did so well bringing home medals in the recent Arafura Games in Australia – David Niere, Ken Kahu and Mathias Nakat – all from Tanna who have gone on to win more gold and silver medals here in front of their home crowd. It really sends a strong message about focusing on our parathletes abilities, not their disabilities.”
So for our Vanuatu parathletics team it’s Samoa next, Dubai World Championships in November and of course 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games!