Elie Enock was just 20 years old when a car accident changed the course of her life.
“I was in a very serious car accident and although I was lucky not to lose my life, the loss of my left leg above my knee was a devastating blow for me as a young woman,” she said.
“For a while I was very depressed. I was scared to go out in Vanuatu because people discriminate against you and say bad things about you. All my dreams were crushed, but then I became involved in Para sport, and everything changed for me.”
Although Enock had a background in basketball while at high school, it took eight years after the accident, for her to re-discover that passion for the sport at a Talent Identification Session run by the Agitos Foundation and the Oceania Paralympic Committee in 2016.
Today, she is one of Vanuatu’s brightest prospects for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
“I train in shot put and javelin, and I also train in rowing. It’s great!” the 31- year-old said.
Having competed internationally for the first time at the Mini Games in December 2017, and then again at Arafura Games and at the World Para Athletics Championships in Dubai last year, Para athletics is Enock’s main focus as she aims for her Paralympic debut.
And her trajectory is steep.
“When I was selected to represent Vanuatu at the Mini Games, I could hardly believe it. My family and community was so proud of me,” Enock said.
“When I marched out with Team Vanuatu at Korman Stadium in the Vanuatu uniform, in front of that huge home crowd, I was so full of pride and emotions.
“Who would have ever thought that a single mother, an amputee could attain such a dream?”
Following her debut, she came home with bronze from the Arafura Games, and although she didn’t qualify for the finals in Dubai, she said the experience will set her up for a promising career.
“I competed in the seated shot put in Dubai but it was my first time in front of a big crowd, and also with some of the champions around the world,” she said.
“I was a bit nervous but I think it will also help me improve more next time for other competitions. I’ve also learnt from all my mistakes.”
Putting those learnings into practise, Enock is training every day, balancing strength and conditioning sessions twice a week, and putting in plenty of hours on the field every other day.
She also ensures she makes it to her Para rowing sessions every Thursday morning.
“I love being out on the water. With the cross training I’ve become stronger and fitter,” she said.
“But no matter how busy I am, I make time.
“Yes Para sport has really changed my life a lot. It helps me to know that having a disability doesn’t stop you from achieving your goals and even helps me realise what I can do with my disability.
“Always think positive in whatever you do. Para sport is like a happy family.”