23 Aug 2013

Sport: Vanuatu ready for World Rowing Champs debut

5:21 pm on 23 August 2013

Vanuatu will make its debut at the World Rowing Championships this weekend.

Tom Pata will race in the lightweight men's single sculls on Sunday and on Monday Kevin Hiuird and Luigi Teilemb in the lightweight men's pair.

The club captain for the Vanuatu Rowing Club, Alan Kalfabun, told Vinnie Wylie after months of training and preparation it's exciting to be nearly underway.

ALAN KALFABUN: After five years since the club started, the expectation is obviously to fly the flag and to participate and also to do their best times at the world rowing championship in Korea.

VINNIE WYLIE: What have they been looking like in training? Have they been improving their times?

AK: They have been improving their times on the rowing machine, the actual erg machine. They've been doing a lot of cross-training so they've been doing a bit of gym work obviously in the water every day, as well as cardio and rowing earth machines.

VW: So this event is going to be a record one in Korea. I think 73 different countries have teams competing, which is breaking the record from a couple of years ago. What is that like? You're obviously flying the flag for Vanuatu, but also for the entire Pacific region.

AK: Vanuatu is the only country that does proper international rowing and we're very glad to take the leading role of that in the region. We're very excited, and obviously there's a lot more events that we'd like to participate in and hopefully grow our membership locally in terms of getting a lot more people out on the water out here in Vanuatu.

VW: Is there a strong following for rowing in Vanuatu? Because, as is well known, the likes of outrigger and va'a are very popular in the Oceania or Pacific region.

AK: So far, the club membership we've had in the last 12 months or so, we had a club regatta last Saturday, and it's good to see the change and mix. There's a lot more ni-Vanuatu coming on board with age ranges between 12 and up to 20, 21. It's probably about 65% ni-Vanuatu in terms of total membership.

VW: And you'd be hoping that Vanuatu's appearance at the world champs might help boost that even further?

AK: Correct, yes. We are hoping to grow the numbers again in terms of membership. We've just started participating in competitions in the last 12 months. We did the Christmas regatta in Lake Karapiro last December, and we did the Sydney Youth Olympics in January. And this is our first competition outside Oceania, in terms of Australia and New Zealand, so the club is very excited.

VW: Your athletes themselves, how long have they been rowing?

AK: They've only been rowing in the last 12 months.

VW: So these three young men who were attracted to rowing in Vanuatu took it up and 12 months later they're going to be competing in the world champs.

AK: That's right, except for Tom. Tom has been doing it the last three to four years. He is our local club manager. But other than that, Luigi and Kevin have only just been rowing in the last 12 months or so. They've come on board, they've taken it very seriously, they've put a bit more pressure into their training, into the normal routine to be able to get the standards for the club.