STOP Champion Mere Faces Challenges Head-On

Story By: Celeste Larkins

Although Table Tennis rep Mere Roden is a Paralympian she still faces daily challenges because of her disability and the lack of appropriate infrastructure for wheelchair users.

Since taking up the sport of table tennis, Mere has not only reaped the physical benefits, but has been able to think more clearly, gain greater confidence, and also has made a lot of new friends.

She recently became a Sports and Training Outreach Programme (STOP) Champion to raise awareness of the benefits of sport and healthy living.

Mere and Para-athlete Jone Bogidrau are the latest STOP Champions and the first para-athletes that are part of STOP.

Over 10 years ago Mere became a paraplegic after an abscess on her back damaged the nerves of her spine.

The Lomaiviti native said she has always been positive drawing strength from the Lord and her family, but her disability can be especially frustrating when she has to wait 3-4 hours for a wheelchair accessible taxi.

Living in a settlement with no paths was a major struggle for Mere and her family. Her husband or sons would carry her each morning to the main road. In time, the community saw the need for a path and all came together to fundraise and build it. It was a milestone for the settlement, in the 20 years Mere has been living there, this is the first path that has been built. Now everyone uses it, mothers with prams, the elderly and children run up and down it.

In 2014 Mere Roden never dreamed she would represent her country at the 2016 Rio Paralympics, let alone be the flag-bearer for Fiji on the day of her 49th birthday.

It all started back in September 2014 when a friend invited Mere to try table tennis. From then on Mere was hooked! She was amazed at the diversity of the sport and its inclusiveness of people with disabilities and women.

Mere thought "I want to be a champion in this sport", and that is what she has become. Mere says the highlight of her sporting career so far was beating Australia's number one ranked table tennis player to qualify for the Rio Paralympics.  

Mere also hopes people with disabilities take every opportunity that comes their way and be part of the positive global change in how the community perceives people with disabilities. She says "After all, we are part of the community, we are all human beings, and we all have rights."

Pic Source: Bendigo Advertise


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