26 Aug 2021

Hard work and commitment ensured Fiji got to Games

11:49 am on 26 August 2021

Fiji's Paralympics team have jumped through hoops to ensure they compete at this year's 2020 Tokyo Games.

Team Fiji heading to a training session at Yoyogi Athletics Park. Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

Team Fiji heading to a training session at Yoyogi Athletics Park. Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Photo: Fiji Paralympic Committee

Samoa, Kiribati, Tonga and Vanuatu were forced to withdraw from the event because of travel restrictions due to Covid-19.

But the Secretary General of Fiji's Paralympic Committee, Shivanjani Singh, said they were determined to push forward to get their athletes to Japan.

"Everybody kept doing what they were supposed to do, everybody kept pushing hard, and in the end, everything came together and the result of it is just seeing where we are right now," she said.

"The National Paralympic Committee also included us in their quarter to travel so we managed to go through all those hurdles and the challenges, so not once did we consider withdrawing because we kept trying and we are here."

While Covid-19 cases and deaths continue to soar in the country, they remained focused on the goal, she added.

"They (athletes) needed to ensure that they kept on practising and training."

It's been particularly challenging for Suva-based athlete, Iosefa Rakesa, who's had to juggle his training schedules ahead of the Games because of the travel restrictions and curfews imposed by the government.

Singh said he was feeling grateful to have made it to Tokyo.

"Sporting events were restricted and everything was restricted on a lockdown. It was really difficult for him and we tried to do as much as we could and in the end I guess it just all worked out.

"Every day we prayed that nothing went wrong and we were trying to adhere to all the protocols and the Covid-19 safety measures in Fiji, to ensure that he and [coach] Fred Fatiaki kept doing what they needed to do while staying safe at the same time."

Rakesa, who is Fiji's flag bearer and who is set to compete in both the F41 shot put and javelin events, said he just wanted to do his best for Fiji.

Fiji paralympian and 2020 flag bearer, Iosefo Rakesa.

Fiji paralympian and 2020 flag bearer, Iosefo Rakesa. Photo: Fiji Paralympic Committee

"They give us courage and strength," he said.

F64 javelin athlete, Inosi Bulimairewa, said while their heads were in Japan, their hearts were with those back home.

"We do think a lot about our family back home. We normally have devotions and prayers and we're just trying to keep positive."

Duo excited about Paralympics debut

Rakesa and Bulimairewa are set to make their debut at the Games, with their first events scheduled for Monday.

Bulimairewa said he's looking forward to competing.

F64 javelin athlete, Inosi Bulimairewa.

F64 javelin athlete, Inosi Bulimairewa. Photo: Fiji Paralympic Committee

"I'm excited and I'm nervous at the same time, but I'm grateful to be part of the Fiji team this year," he said.

"It's an exciting moment for me and my family and I'm hoping to do well in this competition."

After suffering from a rare bone cancer, Bulimairewa had his left leg amputated above the knee when he was just 11-years-old.

It wasn't until 2012, and 12 years of using just crutches, that he was finally fitted with a prosthetic leg, motivating him to play sport.

Five years later, he still can't believe he's made it onto the world's biggest stage.

"I've never dreamt I would come this far, and to be here, it's just unbelievable."

The 33-year-old said if there was one piece of advice he could give himself growing up, it would be to back his disability.

"I would [tell myself] to stay positive, you have talent behind your disability, set a goal and you'll get there.

"Now, if I can get a personal best here, I'll be happy with that."

Shivanjani Singh believes both athletes will do the nation proud.

"We are very close knit team, a very strong team and we are here to represent the nation."

"We are determined and we believe in them, and I'm certain they will make us and the nation proud."