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Beach Volleyball athletes make Tuvalu proud

Loluama Eti of Tuvalu receives

Nanjing, China, August 17, 2014 - One year ago, if you would have told Loluama Eti that she would eventually carry the flag of Tuvalu during the Parade of Nations at the Opening Ceremony of the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games, she would have laughed.

At the time, Eti had never even picked up a beach volleyball.

Eti has played indoor volleyball since the age of 13, but she did not have access to a beach volleyball court in Tuvalu. Tuvalu is only 27 square kilometers, making it the fourth smallest country in the world in terms of land area.

To prepare for the Youth Olympic Games, Eti and her teammate, Valisi Sakalia, spent a month practicing beach volleyball in Fiji.

“I was really excited to try it,” Eti said.

The two girls quickly fell in love with the sport.

“Beach volleyball is more fun than indoor,” Sakalia said, “but a lot more movement.”

Eti and Sakalia are still getting used to the sport, but they are getting better every day, even every set.

In their first Youth Olympic match, on Sunday against Saint Lucia, Tuvalu quickly lost the first set (21-2). In the second set, Tuvalu played with much more confidence (21-12).

“They will improve with practice,” Saint Lucia’s Skye Mondesir said. “They need to focus more on passing the ball high enough for their partner to get to it.”

There is only one other athlete, Taui Saiasi Hauma, from Tuvalu competing at the Youth Olympic Games. Hauma, a discus thrower, sat in the stands and loudly cheered for his fellow Tuvalu athletes against Saint Lucia.

“I am very proud of them,” Hauma said. “They are going up against very tough competition.”

Eti admitted she was nervous, but as nervous as she was carrying the flag during the Opening Ceremony.

“I am very shy,” Eti said, “but I am very proud to represent my island.”

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