For two decades Morris Lulu has followed the fortunes of his medal-winning table tennis children from afar as they represented Vanuatu on the international stage but, until this week, he had never seen them taste victory in person.
On Wednesday night Mr Lulu was in attendance atKorman Stadium to cheer on daughter Anolyn and son Ham to their country’s first gold medals in the women’s and men’s team event at the Vanuatu 2017 Pacific Mini Games.
“As a dad, I am very proud to see my kids play in the Mini Games,” he told the Vanuatu 2017 Games News Service.
“I have never seen them play in a competition like this because normally they play overseas. I had only heard their news from the radio or read it in the newspaper, and I had only seen them during training.
“But yesterday was a very proud moment for me when they won gold in the team event.Now I have actually seen them play in a tough competition. I lost my voice because I was overjoyed, and I never stopped cheering to support them.
“I will be here throughout their matches and continue to give them support.”
Mr Lulu, a carpenter by trade, is from Gaua Island in the Banks group in thenorth of Vanuatu.
His other daughter, Emelyn, was the first table tennis player in the family. She took up the sport while at secondary school in Banks, and later moved to Port Vila where she joined the table tennis academy of MrMok, who laid the foundations for the sport in Vanuatu.
When Anolyn moved to Port Vila to find a job after school, Emelyn persuaded her to play the sport.They played together and were later joined by MrMok’s daughter and son, and the Lulus’ brother, Ham, becoming Vanuatu’s first two table tennis families and inspiring more people to take up the sport.
Priscilla Tommy, who is Anolyn’s teammate in the women’s national team, is also her cousin.
After watching his children grow from young table tennis enthusiasts to international stars, Mr Lulu’s advice to all parents is to let their children play whatever sport they are good atand support them.
“Don’t keep your kids at home, let them come and watch the different sports to give them interest and courage to play a sport,” he said.
“Table tennis is still growing with a small number (of participants) but it is good to have more kids join the sport. Those who are playing now will soon finish, and they will need more young players.”
Story by Flo Vanua
Photos by Rachel Ernest