End of the dream for Vanuatu
The 25 and 28-year-old respectively have hit the headlines throughout the five days of the tournament with their outstanding performances, which saw them finish third in their pool to advance to the knockout phase, record an impressive win over 15th seeds Kristyna Kolocova and Marketa Slukova in the Round of 32 before falling to Xue and Zhang Xi 2-0 (22-20, 21-11).
The result is a ninth place finish and $11,000 in prize money in their first appearance in an FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships by Vanuatu.
Friday’s effort in the Round of 16 match summed up their campaign, with passionate play in the back court and determined defence. They had set point in the first set against the 2011 World Championship bronze medallists, before Xue and Zhang Xi claimed three points on the bounce before going on to win.
"We are proud of how we played against the Chinese, they are ranked number one and we are seeded 37th,” Iatika said. “Our friends and family back home are extremely proud of us, we have received plenty of messages of support.”
“After this amazing experience, we would like to continue but we have to evaluate our current situation, including our financial resources.”
Elwin and Iatika have been playing on the FIVB World Tour since 2008, their best result dating back to Shanghai 2012 when they finished 17th at the Grand Slam.
Earlier in the week, both players emphasised how important it was that they had the opportunity to make their debut at the FIVB World Championships.
“I have been training hard for the last few years and we have improved so much along the way. It’s been very difficult to leave our children and families behind to chase our dream, but now we get a chance to represent them to the best of our ability,” Elwin said.
Like other athletes, the Vanuatu women had to give up a lot to reach the top.
“I have sacrificed my life at home to become the best I can be,” Iatika said. “I have two kids who stay on the island while I am away training and competing because I want to take part. I want to make my family and country proud of me and I want to show all the young people in Vanuatu what is possible if you try hard.”
Being the first women’s team from the South Pacific to go all the way to the World Championships is a huge deal for them. Elwin: “My dad encouraged me to start playing so I would be the first person in my family to ever go on a big aeroplane. Now I hope that the people at home can follow our lead and more women and junior players will start to take part in proper sports training and try their every best. I also hope that some people back home can see at least one of our games.”
Elwin, 25, and Iatika, 28, claimed their ticket to Poland after beating Australia in the finals of the Oceania Championships in Tahiti last year.
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