Leilua chases his Olympic sailing dream
Samoan Sailor, Eroni Leilua, is preparing to chase his Olympic dream this week at the World Laser Championships in Melbourne.
The 26-year-old from Vaivase-uta will travel from his home in Auckland on Thursday as one of 131 entries from 45 countries for the regatta, which starts next Monday.
Leilua will be competing to win Oceania’s last Olympic qualifying spot for Samoa, with Australia and New Zealand already locked in.
Achieving that would make him the first Samoan sailor to go to the Olympics.
“It’s definitely one of my big goals,” Leilua said.
“I hope to put Samoa on the map in the next couple weeks.”
His only competition for the Olympic berth is Papua New Guinean Teariki Numa, but Leilua is fully focussed on finishing as high up in the fleet as possible, regardless of where Numa ends up.
“I’m not too worried about what he’s doing, I’m just focused on myself and making sure I’m putting my best foot forward,” he said.
Leilua is happy with his preparation to date, and feeling good heading into the regatta at Sandringham Yacht Club.
“The weather’s looking pretty good over there at the moment. It’s known to be a windy venue, which suits me,” he said
“I’m one of the heavier sailors, weight tends to help in the heavier breeze.”
Sailing is an expensive sport – Leilua’s charter boat fee for the regatta alone is $2600 tala.
He has asked for help to fund his Olympic pathway from the Samoan Government and the International Olympic Committee, with no luck.
“I have had tremendous support from the Samoa Sailing Association and Apia Yacht Club, they’ve helped me a lot,” Leilua said.
His workplace have helped out too, both in donations and in allowing him time to train:
“I sell fruit and veg to one of the main supermarket chains over here in Auckland. It involves an early start and an early finish, which is beneficial for me because it allows me to get out on the water and get a few hours in before sundown.
“It’s been overwhelming, the support I’ve received from the various groups that I’m part of.
“It did start off as being quite a scary target in terms of paying for everything, but it’s definitely looking a lot more positive now.”
Leilua is thankful to everyone in Samoa for their support through messages and donations from family, friends and beyond.
“Even other people who haven’t really met me, but have heard about what I’m doing and have donated very generously
“I just really appreciate it, and hope to do everyone proud
The Laser World Championships run from the 9th to the 16th of February.