Anolyn Lulu making her debut at the ITTF World Cup (credit: ITTF World)

It was a landmark occasion for the small South Pacific country of Vanuatu at the recent ZEN-NOH 2019 ITTF Team World Cup. Anolyn Lulu, Priscila Tommy and Stephanie Qwea became the first-ever players in history from Vanuatu to compete at the ITTF World Cup.

Vanuatu secured a place in Tokyo after placing second at the ITTF Oceania championships following the withdrawal of Australia, the reigning Oceania champions. Placing third in their group, losing to table tennis powerhouses Chinese Taipei who were the eventual semi-finalists and Romania, the reigning European Champions. Nevertheless, it was an opportunity of a lifetime for the trio.

“I cannot tell you how I felt when I got a mail from ITTF in September that we had been selected as the replacement for Australia to compete at the ITTF Team World Cup. We could not imagine this but we celebrated; we were eager to be in Tokyo. Now that we are here, we have met and seen some of the great stars we have been hearing about, this has given us hope that the future of table tennis in Vanuatu is secured as we just need to continue to work hard.” Anolyn Lulu

Team Vanuatu in action at the #Tokyo2019 #ITTFWorldCup 🏓🇦🇺 Full results available ➡️https://www.ittf.com/tournament/5072/2019/team-world-cup/Vanuatu Table Tennis

Posted by ITTF-Oceania on Saturday, 9 November 2019

Table Tennis has been fast growing in Vanuatu with the support of a dedicated team and a number of ITTF Oceania programs such as Smash Down Barriers and the Bounce it Back programs. Earlier this year at the Pacific Games, Vanuatu claimed five gold medals and one silver.

“I think attending this competition has again showed that popularity in table tennis in our country will continue to grow. I have been playing table tennis for more than two decades and this is the first time I have participated in a world title tournament; getting to Tokyo has again reaffirmed my belief that we can compete at top level.” Anolyn Lulu

Whilst the ZEN-NOH 2019 Team World Cup may have not been Vanuatu’s moment to shine but without a doubt, it has lifted the island nation, better for the experience. With the 2020 Tokyo Olympics coming up, Vanuatu is definitely a country to watch in the upcoming Oceania trials.

https://www.facebook.com/ITTFOceania/photos/a.362721277085208/2810568212300490/?type=3&theater