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As Vanuatu’s medal-winning Beach Volleyball Women’s team ramps up its qualifying campaign for the Tokyo Olympics, access to its own gymnasium has now been made possible thanks to the generous support of P&O Cruises Australia and its guests.

The first Vanuatu athletes to win a Commonwealth Games team medal, the women came home from Gold Coast 2018 with bronze in spite of not having the facilities and support networks that most international teams routinely enjoy.

P&O Cruises President Sture Myrmell said the women’s achievements were truly astounding and testament to the enthusiasm and commitment of the team and their determination to succeed in top international competition.

“It is remarkable to think that these women have been competing at such a high level on the world stage without easy access to facilities considered basic by most professional sporting teams. It makes their achievements even more incredible and little wonder why they have become such wonderful role models in Vanuatu,” Mr Myrmell said.

President of Vanuatu Volleyball Debbie Masauvakalo agrees, adding the cost of accessing private local fitness facilities is often prohibitive to the progress of the team.

“We use local fitness facilities in Port Vila but the costs like access and transport are an added drain on our limited resources. So, having a gym of our own on site will be such a huge step for us and our development.”

The gym is comprised of two repurposed shipping containers with a new air-bike and exercise mats the first pieces of equipment to be installed. Moves are underway to also purchase rowing machines and weights.

It has also been built with consideration to disability access so use can be made of the gym by para-athletes.

Mr Myrmell visited the gym in Vila on Friday along with Vanuatu’s Sports Minister Francois Chani.

“I am incredibly proud that P&O Cruises and our guests have combined to build the gymnasium to help the national women’s team realise their dream and their full potential in the international sporting arena,” Mr Myrmell said.

“It might be a modest gym by many Olympic teams’ standards, but it is a very big step forward for the Vanuatu team as well as all the other young women who want to become the nation’s next generation of beach volleyball athletes.
“Beach volleyball is a hugely popular sport in Vanuatu because of the success of the women’s team. These women are role models in their community, particularly to young women, and dedicate time each week running after school activity sessions for girls and boys to keep them active and focussed on health.”

The gym is the result of contributions from P&O Cruises and its guests through the P&O Pacific Partnership program. Adult guests donate A$1 which is used to support community-based activities in places P&O ships visit, mostly in Vanuatu and PNG.

In addition to the gym, the P&O Pacific Partnership program has been paying for the travel and accommodation for the women to attend international volleyball events necessary in their quest to qualify for the Olympics.

Debbie Masauvakalo is keen to underline that point.

“P&O has been a blessing for the Vanuatu team, enabling us to get where we need to go around the globe and compete at the highest level. We could not have achieved what we have in recent years without P&Os support,” said Masauvakalo.

The women will know in June whether they have qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics but, as Mr Myrmell commented: “Irrespective of the outcome they are winners already.”