Table Tennis Queen Keen To Perform At Home
AN every-ready, effervescent smile and lightning reflexes.
These are two of the dominant images that spring to mind when you say the name Anolyn Lulu.
The 38-year-old mother of two is the nation’s leading female table tennis player and one of Vanuatu’s most recognizable sporting identities.
Her sporting CV is unlikely to be bettered by anyone in the country at this stage as she has competed at three Commonwealth Games, five Pacific Games and three Mini Pacific Games.
But her crowning achievement to date was to compete at the 2012 London Olympics where she was the flag bearer for the Vanuatu team.
In a Van2017 interview during a practice session this week, Anolyn explained that she was three months pregnant in London.
“I had read that it can give a woman extra strength, it’s a hormonal thing and I certainly felt good,’’ she said.
Her son Kalos is now four and it was another, more advanced, pregnancy that prevented her from competing at the Rio Olympics – her second son Aicaiah is now 10 months old.
She said she is excited to competing in a major competition in front of her home crowd for the first time at the Pacific Mini Games in December.
“It will be good and something different as I have always competed overseas before and there have been no expectations on me. But this time that will be very different and I just hope I can rise to the occasion,’’ she said.
“I don’t feel my age is a barrier as there are table tennis players competing in their 40s and one New Zealand lady who is very good is in her 50s,” she said.
But she admitted that at this stage she is not looking beyond the Pacific Mini Games and then the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in Australia next year.
She said she would love to emulate her performance in the Cook Islands in 2009 where she came home with a chest full of medals.
“It was a great games for us and I won gold in the teams event, gold in the doubles, silver in the singles and bronze in the mixed doubles,” she said, beaming at the memory of a such an impressive haul.
For Anolyn, whose father is from the Banks and her Mum from Maewo, her table tennis journey began because of her older sister Emmeline.
“Emmeline was at St Patrick’s College in Ambae and there was a New Zealand teacher who had a table tennis table at his home and she started playing there in 1994 and I just followed her and I began playing in 1995,” she recalled.
She fell in love with the sport immediately, but it was four years before she competed in her first international competition and she has not stopped since.
She trains five afternoons a week with a Chinese coach, currently using the table tennis tables at the Lycee Bougainville in Port Vila.
“We used to play at the home of Mr Mok, who was our mentor, but he has left the country, so this is the alternative,” she said.
She said apart from the practice sessions there is no other formal training for the Vanuatu players.
“We don’t have a conditioning coach and there is no gym work which means we are behind other nations,’’ she said.
“In China for example they practice or train every morning, afternoon and even at night, so that is one reason why they are so hard to beat.’’
Anolyn teaches Zumba during the week which helps with her fitness and, watching her practice, it’s clear she is still very fast and precise around the table, with a strong all round game.
She said there will be four men and four women in the team for this year’s mini games in Vila and also four in the para table tennis team.
“We will have two standing and two competing sitting down,’’ she said.
“I am confident because we have a strong team this time around as some of our better, older players have come back.’’
She is also a sports development officer at the Vanuatu Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee (VASANOC), so she is heavily involved in many sports programs.
One of those is the Voices of Athletes (VOA) program.
She said selected athletes will go to schools carrying important messages.
“These messages include anti-drug messages, play safe stop HIV, go green, love your country, keep our coasts clean and stay healthy,” she said.
“So that is a great initiative and spin off from the Van2017 Games.’’
Meanwhile, on Thursday at Van2017 Head Office, representatives from ODC Computers, as the main sponsor of table tennis and para table tennis for the 2017 Pacific Mini Games, were able to officially meet with some of the key elite athletes who will be participating in the upcoming Pacific Mini Games. Anolyn Lulu and Mary Ramel, who is a para-athlete and silver medalist in the Oceania Para Table Tennis games in Fiji last year, will both be representing Vanuatu during the 10th Pacific Mini Games.
General Manager of ODC Computers, Glen Korikalo, and owner, Olaf De Ceuster, were able to capture a moment with the two ladies, who had been invited to the Van2017 office to officially meet with Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls, Dr Sharman Stone, and a delegation from the Pacific Women Advisory Board representing 14 Pacific countries, including a Solomon Islander who lives with a disability.
ODC Computers will be cheering for the table tennis athletes as they strive for seven Gold’s at the Games.
“To be able to see our athletes compete on home ground is not only a great experience for spectators but also a proud moment for all Vanuatu athletes,” said Mr Korikalo.
“ODC Computers is proud to support table tennis and para table tennis on an international scale, and showcase home grown talent in Anolyn and Mary, and all the Team Vanuatu table tennis athletes.”
Content and Photo Source: The Vanuatu Independent