Solomon Islands Va'a athlete, Esther Geidele Yates. (Photo Outsourced)
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OVER the past years, the only sport that Esther Geidele Yates has personal attachment to was netball, however, this year she switched to the sport of Va’a –‘Outrigger Canoeing’.

The switch of sports got her the ticket to make her debut at the 2022 Mini Pacific Games after she convinced herself to try out the sport of Va’a.

Now, 24, she becomes the second athlete to represent the Solomon Islands in the sport of Va’a at the 2022 Mini Pacific Games in Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands.

“What influenced me to join Va’a is the idea of wanting to experience something new.

“I have been playing Netball in the past years but since my knee injury, I haven’t been able to go further.

“When the opportunity came to try Va’a, it was more like stepping out of my comfort zone and trying to see the potential I have and test my abilities. Since then, I have found great joy when I started Va’a at the beginning of 2022,” the young athlete from the provinces of Isabel and Malaita told SOLOMON WOMEN.

Recently, Esther Yates has taken up her new role as the Va’a Sports Development Officer for the upcoming 2023 Pacific Games in Honiara after she was appointed by the National Olympic Committee of the Solomon Islands.

She later described her participation at this year’s Va’a sports competition at the Mini Games in Northern Marianas as compelling with a nerve-racking experience.

 “One of the highlights for me as an athlete was being the second female athlete for Va’a representing the country at the Pacific Mini Games in Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands.

“It was a nervous but exciting moment wearing the blue, green, yellow, and white flag,” Ms. Yates recalled.

Although she is yet to bag a medal for the country, Esther shared her challenges and she managed to look beyond her challenges as an athlete in the sport of Va’a.

Esther Yates during Va’a competition at the 2022 Mini Pacific Games in Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands. (Photo Outsourced)

“Some challenges that I face were the ability to motivate myself every day and show up for training sessions while balancing a nutritious diet.

“Another is not having the proper equipment take for example; canoes and paddles to train.

“Firstly, to say that I have overcome these challenges would be a lie, every day is a new challenge to push myself to work extra hard and train hard.

“The only way to do that is to be disciplined and continue to prepare me mentally as time goes on

“One thing she loves most about Va’a is being out on the water especially the drive to the challenge and to push an extra mile whilst in training and competition,” she said.

The young athlete said Esther, besides being a student and an athlete is also the sports development officer for Va’a.

“Currently, I am working as the sports development officer for Va’a in which I am confident that with the proper training for our athletes, there will be medal winners in the 2023 Pacific Games,” Esther said.

Va’a (Outrigger Canoeing) has not been on the Pacific Mini Games program since 2013 in Wallis and Futuna, where Tahiti won every event on offer, according to cited report.

“They did the same at the 2009 Pacific Mini Games in Cook Islands. Tahiti is the spiritual home of Va’a, the only true indigenous sport on the Pacific Games program. Since then, at the Pacific Games of 2015 and 2019, Cook Islands, New Caledonia and Papua New Guinea have all tasted gold medal success though Tahiti continues to win the vast majority of events.”

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