While, she maybe young in age, this girl knows how to punch above her weight. She is defying the odds, even though she grew up in one of the toughest neighborhood in the city of Suva, Vatuwaqa. But that did not deter the goals set by this young women, securing her scholarship through volleyball, and hard work. In the third part of our series on the tales of the three young Women making names for themselves in the United States. we will feature the future star; 19-year old Vasiti Baleilomaloma.
Many famous sports stars have defied the odds, growing up in a rough neighborhoods to make a name for themselves. From thieves, to a stardom. We are talking about Pele, Christiano Ronaldo, Mike Tyson or Novak Djokovic. These superstars have paved the way for others, and the young Vatuwaqa lass is doing the same.
Beauty, Brains And Brawn: Vasiti Baleilomaloma
Vasiti started her education at Veiuto Primary School before moving on to Suva Grammar School. Here, the oldest of five excelled in sports and developed her passion. Growing up in a tough neighborhood didn’t deter her, as she used her background to motivate her to make a name for herself. She epitomizes the message that runs through all three of our features, that ‘you let your circumstances dictate your future’.
A youth nominee at the Fiji Sports Awards 2014-2015, she was part of the team that won bronze at the 2013 Pacific Mini Games, in Wallis And Futuna. Vasiti was also a member of the team that won Gold at the Oceania Championship in Suva, Fiji in 2016.
Through those endeavors, she overcame the odds to win a scholarship and is now striving to achieve her dreams. Vasiti is currently at Junior College, New Mexico Military Institute, carving out her place after the steps made by Agatha Gibbons and Mere Serea.
What more can she do? What more are we to expect from her? How many more paths is going to take on her journey with Fiji Volleyball?
Last Word on Sports took the time to find out what shapes this young woman into what she is today, and what she will become.
Part Three: Vasiti Baleilomaloma
In the third of our three part series, Jovilisi Waqa speaks to Vasiti Baleilomaloma.
LWOS: How did you get the scholarship?
“The Coach came to Fiji when I was 15, and so that was when she saw me play in the Marist tournament. Did pretty good and got MVP in that tourney, but I couldn’t come during that time cause I was too young. So I was able to come after I got my FSLC results.”
How has it been so far?
“It was tough. Really tough this first year. Everything is different. The way they train and all that. But it was a really good experience this first year. Almost done now.”
What keeps you going?
“God of course. And my family. I’m just here cause I want to give them a better life in the future. To provide and support my younger siblings.”
The eldest daughter, in Fijian culture it is a custom for children to send support back to the village. With good values, Vasili knows that through her successes, her family can do well.
What Struggles Have You Experienced?
“Yeah, I grew up in Vatuwaqa. There were a lot of struggles. Financially and also peer pressure. But I don’t complain because God always knows what’s best for us and I have my family.
“Those struggles were never a burden. It was a blessing cause it has brought me this far.”
What is the Difference of Playing in Fiji, and the US? How that is molding you?
“Oh yeah I’ve learned a lot. Its way more structured and formal I guess. Everything is just strict at NMMI. I’ve enjoyed the experience and it’s actually made me stronger physically and mentally”
What Adjustments Have You had to Make? Were There Any Disappointments?
“Yeah…I was shocked when I first came. Took me a while to adjust. Didn’t play that much cause I lacked experience but those few games I played taught me a lot. Had ankle and hip injuries, which did not help me at all.”
How do you Balance Sports and Education?
“Our coach is really strict on both, plus the school monitors everything we do. They have a study time from 7:00-9:30 pm every night and we aren’t allowed to sleep or do anything else except study.”
What Advice Would You Give to Youngsters?
“Never take anything for granted. It’s the little things you do in life that takes you places. Always put God first and he will do wonders for you!”
Future Looks Bright For Vasiti
With the struggles she endured to get where she is, the future looks bright for her. Her scholarship has given her a chance brighter future both in education and sports. She has a chance to provide for her family and live her dreams. She’s an inspiration to the young generation that no matter what your circumstance is you can rise above it. We can’t all play rugby but we can excel too in our chosen sports.
All Grateful of Their Opportunities
These girls can all agree on how grateful they are, for the opportunity that has come their way. Never in their wildest dreams did they think that each might be where they are today–and gratitude is all they have.
Gratitude to Agatha Gibbons, for being that shining example as a pioneer in volleyball scholarship. She paved the way for Serea and Baleilomaloma to forge their paths. They are grateful for their coaches, their family and most of all, the Saviour.
To borrow few lines from Rita Ora’s song ‘Grateful‘ penned by the world renowned songwriter, Diane Warren:
“I was thinking I was trying to end out
From all the pain that was weighing me down
I pulled it together and I pulled myself out
Learned a lesson, learned a lesson
That there’s a life you gotta go through hell, yes
But that’s what got me strong, I got no regrets
And I’ve got only love, got no bitterness
I count my blessings, count my blessings, yeah
I’m proud of every tear, ’cause they got me here”
Three Women Striving to Succeed Through Volleyball
The tears they shed, the pain they have overcome, and the blessings they have gained is what each are now grateful for. These three young ladies are true role models. Humble and hardworking in study and the execution of their talent, they have persevered to get where they are today.
It will be their holidays soon, so if you do see them walking in your village or town, go up to them and shake their hand. All three have achieved much in their young years, and each are good Fijian ambassadors and role models from the South Seas. One day, they will bring higher success for the Kulawai (Fijian women’s volleyball) and make their families prouder than they are today.
‘Vinaka Vakalevu’ to these girls for sharing their story with us. Thanks to Senior Editor of LWOR Scott Hornell for his direction and the ‘Big Boss’ Mike Kovacs for allowing their stories to be told across the LWOS platform.
“Main photo credit”