Ken Kahu, coach Deni Kalenga and Georges Langa at training at Ecole Centrale.

When small children are counting how long to a birthday or to the arrival of toys in Santa Claus’ sack, they often count the number of nights – or “sleeps” until the much anticipated event. For Vanuatu’s five parathletes selected for the Pacific Games para-athletics team, it’s 19 “sleeps” to go!

Vanuatu parathletics team is training in three locations – Marceline Moli in Luganville assisted by coaches Stanley Toa and Hellen Aruwetti, Mathias Nakat under the watchful eye of coach Timothy Loughman and here in Port Vila at Ecole Centrale, with coach Deni Kalenga are Ken Kahu, Georges Langa and Ellie Ennock.

The Vanuatu Paralympic Committee has carefully scheduled training programs as well in Malakula and intends by the end of 2019 to have another squad in Penama. The squads are supplied with equipment, bus fares for three training sessions a week and the squad coaches are given specialised training here in Vanuatu but also overseas in locations such as Australia, Fiji, Tokyo and France.

“We take an integrated approach on many levels,” explains Margaret Macfarlane. “We don’t just focus on athletes but also how can we help our volunteer coaches and officials to have a career pathway as well. We don’t have enough funds for salaries for our volunteers but we do go to a lot of effort sourcing scholarships or overseas travel for training and also liaising with the private sector about possible part-time employment for our athletes. We could not have had success without the support of BRED Bank, ASCO Motors, Kiwanis, Carbine Club, Credit Corp and Azure Pure Water and of course VASANOC.”

The parathletics team will assemble in Vila on Sunday 23rd June for a second pre-departure training camp with funding from the Vanuatu Government. The provincial athletes do not have access to training on synthetic tracks or to good gyms, so this is a critical week in the lead-up preparation. Working with high performance coaches such as Charmaine Grame and the motivation of being together with Team Vanuatu will contribute to their esprit d’corp.

The Air Vanuatu charter flight departs at 2am in the morning on Tuesday 2nd July, nineteen days away. Of course, it’s not only our parathletes counting down the days left to train before departure, it’s also coaches, officials and everyone’s families.

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