In the mind of an athlete, growing is a never-ending process.
That’s because they believe there will always be room for improvement.
That is according to tennis star, Lyla Tapusoa, one of the gold medal winners from the recent Pacific Mini Games held in Vanuatu.
Speaking to the Samoa Observer, the 18-year-old golden girl says she is still coming to terms with her success.
“I actually still can’t believe it,” she said.
“It’s very unreal for me right now. I am also very grateful for everyone’s help in getting me to where I am today, everyone’s encouragement which helped me through it all.”
“It was very nice going over to Vanuatu for the Mini Games because I got to really experience what’s needed to succeed in that level of competition. The discipline, focus and determination needed to play in a tournament like that are things that should never be taken lightly.”
But how did it all start for Samoa’s new, rising tennis star?
According to Ms. Tapusoa, it all started 12 years ago when she first decided to pick up that tennis racquet.
Although it started out just as something fun to do, her interest developed along with her skills in the sport.
“I first picked up a tennis racquet when I was only six years old,” she said.
“At first I started playing just for fun, but when I saw that tennis came with heaps of opportunities I decided to push myself to pursue the sport in a more serious manner.”
“My parents helped so much during my journey. They pushed me to do my best and made it possible for me to develop myself and pursue tennis. I was able to excel in the sport because of them.”
And as many athletes may understand, getting a gold medal is no easy task especially with the hours of training needed to get to such a level.
“I would train two hours every morning then I would train a few hours in the evening,” Ms. Tapusoa said.
“It was definitely not easy but training with the team makes it a lot easier to cope with. As athletes, we need to always stay determined and focused.”
“I have gone through extreme tennis training in the past, but when you are representing Samoa, you have to push yourself to that next level.”
Ms. Tapusoa adds as she gains more experience through the various regional and international tournament, her skills and knowledge of the sport will continue to grow.
“I played in a few tournaments but this accomplishment and the Mini Games tournament, is the first of its kind for me,” she said.
“All the other tournaments that I took part in, were stepping stones for me and whenever I would compete, I would see myself gradually growing in experience and skill.”
“That’s how it is for us athletes; we grow with every opportunity given to us.”
Where to now for Ms. Tapusoa?
“In going forward, I will keep training hard as I aim for the Oceania Tennis competition which will be held here next year,” she said.
“I am also looking forward to the Pacific Games in 2019, so I really need to work hard to make Samoa proud. This may be my first gold in a big competition, but I will work hard towards not making it my last.”
“My main aim will be more gold medals for Samoa.”
According to Ms. Tapusoa, much of her inspiration comes from her fellow tennis golden girl, Steffi Carruthers.
“Over this trip, Steffi Carruthers was definitely a perfect role model for all tennis players in Samoa,” she said.
“She works hard and really wants to help develop new players. She helped me throughout the games and motivated me towards getting this gold.”
“Steffi’s passion and love of the sport really motivated me to want to be more like her. Her determination makes us younger athletes determined.”
And now as she relaxes with her friends and family, Ms. Tapusoa’s wishes to thank all those who made her journey possible.
“First I would like to thank my lovely parents who helped me and gave me the opportunity to excel in the sport,” she said.
“I would also like to thank Steffi Carruthers for pushing me during the tournament. I surely wouldn’t have been able to get the gold without her. I would also like to thank Tennis Samoa, our manager, my teammates and also those who sent over encouraging messages.”