Against all odds, Vanuatu triumph in Papua New Guinea months after natural disaster
Only months after the devastating impact of cyclone Pam, the Vanuatu national men’s and women’s hockey teams picked up medals at the 2015 Pacific Games, held in Papua New Guinea.
Following the natural disaster, the hockey family pulled together to support the small Pacific island which is home to just over 260,000 people.
The Vanuatu Hockey Federation received assistance from the Oceania Hockey Federation and the Vanuatu National Olympic Committee which enabled them to send their teams to the competition, while from further afield, the European Hockey Federation provided funding to source a team coach.
The support made all the difference as the Vanuatu hockey teams achieved some very good results in the hockey 5s competition. The men's team picked up the silver medals after losing to Fiji in the final while the women won bronze as they defeated Tonga.
When asked what the experience had been like for the players, captain of the women's team, Belinda Nampas, said: "As a team we tried our very best. We had to overcome many personal, physical and financial challenges to be able to participate in these Games but the sacrifices were worth it. We not only got to play the sport we love but we got to experience the wonderful culture of Papua New Guinea and form new friendships with other athletes from other countries and sports disciplines."
Men's captain, Hiro Namu, also admitted his team learned from the event. He said: "Playing alongside other Pacific countries like Tonga and Solomon Islands for the first time was really great and we very much enjoyed the comradery and sportsmanship in playing with our fellow Pacific brothers. In the past, we have only played against Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Fiji, so seeing other island nations come into the tournament was wonderful. This was the first time ever that we played in a final, so the fact that we were even able to get silver against a more experienced Fiji team is a major achievement for Vanuatu hockey."
Speaking of their achievements, Vanuatu Hockey Federation President, George Kalkoua, said: "A new era has emerged and it is time for local Ni-Vanuatu hockey lovers, players, coaches, officials to step up and take more responsibility for the future growth of our organisation as well as the development of hockey within the country. The challenges faced in the build-up and preparation of these Pacific Games not only taught us to be more self-governing as a body, with everyone being involved in the decision-making process, but it also empowered us to really see the areas we hope to strengthen and the next steps we need to take in order to help build upon our own capacity and management."
The devastation of the cyclone in not forgotten and work continues to rebuild the hockey facility, however the hope provided by the Pacific Games and the funding from the broader hockey family has provided much needed relief to the athletes from their everyday reality.
For more information about the Pacific Games, click here.