Fiji stories, Labasa, South Pacific culture, family, migration, Australia/Fiji relationship
Friday, July 29, 2016
Epeli from Mali Island
Epeli's sleepless nights
Timoci Vula Tuesday, July 19, 2016
FIJI's Paralympic athlete to the 2016 Rio Olympics Epeli Baleibau is already having sleepless nights.
Definitely not jitters for being a first-timer to the Olympics or having to compete on the world stage.
He is just ready for what he says is his "important mission".
He's mentally psyched up for the competition that begins for him on August 9 at the OLS Olympic Stadium in Rio.
Baleibau will compete in the Ambulant Men's high jump event, coached by Benedito Qumi.
But when he looks back at how far he has come, his faith in God and life's lessons and experiences have played a significant role in changing his mentality to being always positive despite his condition.
Originally from Ligaulevu Village on Mali Island, Macuata, with maternal links to Vuo Village in Labasa, Baleibau lost his right arm in a work accident in 1997 while employed at the Fiji Forest Industries in Malau, Labasa.
Though he could not recall the exact month, he remembers it was a Tuesday and he was working on dock 3 — doing the work of three people (grading, recording data, sawing and treatment).
In the process of pushing a 2x2 timber in for sawing, his hand accidentally slipped into the machine that severed his right limb, just a few inches below his elbow.
He remembers that he lost his limb at 7:45pm that night.
Baleibau said when he pulled his hand out, before he could see it, he told himself that he had lost his right hand.
When he lifted it, he saw it was completely severed.
"So I lifted my arm and walked towards the emergency vehicle," Baleibau recalls in this interview, remembering how his workmates ran after him and bandaged the wound with pieces of cloth before he was transported to the Labasa Hospital.
A keen athlete during his high school days at All Saints Secondary School in Labasa, and a rugby player for the Mali district team, and even for the Macuata provincial club from 1995-96, his world collapsed after that accident.
Fourteen years later, he lost his wife — a high school teacher — and he was left to raise their three children.
They were his world and his inspiration.
He challenged himself that he will always strive to ensure he provided for his children.
That personal challenge saw him reappear into the sporting scene again after 18 years when he approached coach Freddy Fesaitu in 2014 to train for athletics.
In 2015, he made his debut for Fiji in the 2015 South Pacific Games in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.
Since September last year, he had been training in preparation for the qualifying competition in Dubai, and now for the Olympics in Rio.
He vividly remembers the competition in Dubai and how that experience had prepared him well in terms of what to expect at the Olympic Games.
Baleibau recalled his numerous failed attempts on four consecutive days to jump 1.65m.
He remembers watching high jump videos given to him by his coach to study the athletes' techniques and skills two days before the competition.
And he surprised his coach on game day when he jumped 1.65m, then 1.70m and his final successful attempt of the 1.74m height. He dropped the bar at 1.80m.
"That day I was so happy because I knew I had jumped the 1.65m qualifying height for the Olympics. I knew I had achieved what I came here for and I want to thank FASANOC and the Fiji Sports Commission for funding me to the qualifying competition in Dubai," the proud father said.
"Now, I'm focused on Rio. This is very important to me because I just want to show to the whole of Fiji how proud I am to represent my country to the world and show them too that Fiji is a unique country."
With his pending participation in Rio, Baleibau said this sent out a strong message to people living with any form of disability that their present situation did not mean the end of the world.
He encouraged his colleagues to take the first step, and even take up sports they loved.
He said sports was not only a stepping stone to achieve great things, it could also open up job opportunities and at the same time open and develop their mind and thinking.
Baleibau said when this happened, there would be less or nil time spent on thinking and feeling miserable about their physical inability.
From a young man who would be embarrassed to show his severed limb, he got over it when he entered the sporting arena in 2014.
Training is progressing well for Baleibau, and his coaches Qumi and Fesaitu.
He thanked them for their spirit of volunteerism; commitment and dedication to ensure he is well prepared for his event come August.
He acknowledged the support from the athletics coaches for training him on the track.
He also remembers the support from his family and his fellow villagers back on the island that have learnt of the great news.
Now, his focus is on enhancing his speed, fitness and finetuning some techniques.
He is also targeting to cut his weight further from 66.13kg to 65 — which he says is his ideal weight if he was to jump higher than his Dubai record.
"So for me right now, I have not been sleeping well in the past few days. I feel like I am already at the Games Village in Rio, which means I know game day is drawing closer.
"Training is much lighter to me now. Whatever training routine my coaches give me, I complete it because deep down inside me, I know the day is fast approaching for me to represent Fiji in Rio.
"I expect to achieve a good result. I will not promise but I am looking forward to achieving a good result and compete on behalf of my country, and to have the world know our country."
For Fijians in Fiji and the world over, Baleibau has urged them all to support and pray for Team Fiji's participation.
"I want to say that wearing a white jersey is not an easy task. It is difficult. There is pain in the training field, you get sworn at and screamed at because of the need for us athletes to achieve our workout in a day.
"That is why I want to ask all Fijians to support and pray for us, and offer us their blessings so we can do our best in Rio."
Babasiga (pronounced bambasinga) is the dry land of Macuata in northern Fiji - our place in the sun in Fiji. Peceli is from Fiji from the village is Vatuadova and the beach is Nukutatava. Peceli Ratawa passed away on 27th December 2015 so this is Wendy's blog now. Wendy is an Australian and today live in Geelong, Australia.