disability-vanuatuIt’s a clean sweep for parathletes from Santo with an exciting letter reaching Vanuatu yesterday confirming the qualification of three Luganville based parathletes to the Commonwealth Games to be held on the Gold Cost in Australia from 4th to 15th April 2017.

Margaret Macfarlane, President of Vanuatu Paralympic Committee explained, “In Vila, we have several experienced parathletes but we wanted to see what potential parathletes there might be in the provinces. Our funds are very limited but with funding and technical support from the Agitos Foundation and Oceania, we held a Talent Identification Program in April followed by a few days of training up in Luganville. We struck gold! We found 11 potential parathletes with several demonstrating real talent. Then the issue was how to buy some equipment for them and to get a regular, quality coaching schedule established.”

Dorian Naliupis of the Franjipani Association, set up to provide education opportunities for people living with an impairment, volunteered to help as a coaching coordinator. Several of the squad lived out of Luganville in rural villages so the VPC found funds for bus fares to get them to training three times a week.

“We flew Jessica Richardson up to Santo for a week to start the training of both the athletics squad but also of Dorian as a coach. We needed to have some sustainability in the coaching and having Dorian properly trained and qualified will be a real bonus into the future. Then later, with a grant from Van17 Mini Games and the Ministry of Youth Development Sports & Training (MYD&T), we sent up Denni Kalenga, Sports Teacher from Ecole Central for a further coaching session over a weekend. We had our Pacific Mini Games and Commonwealth Games athletes training together – so this was a double bonus for our investment.”

Purchase of javelins and shot put from local business Vanuatu Sports Supply and a specially engineered Stability Frame from Vate Engineering meant the Santo squad was properly equipped.

Jessica Richardson is an Australian Volunteer for International Development (AVID), working with the Vanuatu Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee (VASANOC) looking at Inclusion and Equity in sport programs – growing access and participation in sport for women and those living with a disability. Jessica has been a driving force in ensuring both the Commonwealth Games and Mini Games teams were ready.

“We could see the distances were impressive in training but it was the results from the Training Camp in October in Australia that blew us away!” commented Jessica.

Franny Kweivira, competing in borrowed shoes and on a synthetic surface in a modern stadium for the first time in her life, competed in both javelin and shotput. Her javelin performance of 18.02m equates to a top 4 ranking in the world with Commonwealth athletes! And if you think that’s not impressive, her shot put of 6.65m would place her at 5th on the 2017 World Rankings!

With nearly three years to go until the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo, there’s still plenty of room for improving the skills of Franny but also the other parathletes under a proper coaching program.

The team of Friana Kweivira (women’s F46 Javelin), Marceline Moli (Women’s F46 Javelin) and Dephnny Naliupis (Women’s T 35 100 metres) are now getting ready for serious training ahead of the Mini Games in December and then a training camp in Australia in early 2017. They will be accompanied by Dorian Naliupis as Coach and Chef d’Equip.

It may have been a golden moment when so many impressive parathletes were discovered in Santo but it’s certainly another golden occasion our talented team is dreaming of now!