Vanuatu’s Miller Pata and Linline Matauatu have made a significant impact in beach volleyball while travelling the world and learning things that have changed their life for the better.
They started from the ground up, building a solid foundation that made them the most successful team in their country’s beach volleyball history.
“Travelling with volleyball has been a great learning experience for me,” Pata said. “Vanuatu is a small country with a small population, and everything is so far away when we have to travel to tournaments.
“Travelling has allowed us to learn many things like improve our reading, writing, language and communication skills. When I come home from travelling, the different places we have been to and the people we have met have become great stories to tell my children.
“In 2015, after Cyclone Pam, Lin and I both had our homes heavily damaged, with Lin losing everything she had. With tournaments scheduled in Asia, we decided to leave and still play as planned because if we played well, we could win enough prize money to help repair and rebuild our homes.
“We have learnt that you can be a mother and also an athlete, which in our culture is a big step to take. We believe that we can show young girls that there is no barrier that cannot be overcome with determination, belief in yourself, teamwork and trust in each other.”
Pata and Matauatu first teamed up in 2011 at the Shanghai Open and played together for a year before playing with different partners in the next two years. It was at the end of 2014 that they partnered up again to start their most successful run, capping it with a Commonwealth Games medal in 2018.
“In 2018, the Vanuatu women’s beach volleyball team gained selection at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia. I had reconnected with Lin after some time apart due to the birth of my second child Tommy, seven months prior to the Games,” Pata recalled.
“Because of the restrictions on housing children or family members and given that I had to travel with my infant son, as a team we were unable to stay at the Athletes’ Village. Our sponsor provided generous support in securing our accommodation off-site. That was greatly appreciated as our limited resources often lead to difficulties when travelling for competition overseas.
“Winning a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games has easily been my biggest achievement on the court and I have to say the support and dedication from the broader playing group proved to be invaluable to me in allowing me to continue training while pregnant and regaining my fitness after my son’s birth.”