Sailor Leilua plans path to Olympics

By Thomas Airey 20 February 2020, 7:00PM

With qualification for the Olympics in July confirmed, sailor Eroni Leilua, is now planning what the next few months of his life will look like.

The 26-year-old from Vaivase-uta earned his spot for Tokyo 2020 at last week’s World Laser Championships in Melbourne, Australia, becoming the first Samoan sailor to ever qualify.

Having returned home to New Zealand on Monday night, Leilua said the next week is about planning what events and training camps he can get to in the months leading up to the Olympics.

“I’ve got a brief plan at the moment, the first thing is trying to nail down a coach,” he said.

Leilua will be looking to take part in invaluable training camps and programmes in New Zealand and Australia in the build-up to July:

“Because Aussie and New Zealand are the top two nations in the world for sailing, so to be in and amongst that would be highly beneficial.”

Having returned to work on Tuesday, Leilua said his achievement hasn’t really sunk in.

“Obviously it’s a massive deal and I’m humbled to be the first to do it, but it hasn’t really hit home yet,” he said.

“Once the confirmation came through that I was qualified, there was a lot of relief, it was a lot of pressure put on myself by myself to qualify.”

Leilua needed to beat Papua New Guinean sailor Teariki Numa to ensure his place at Tokyo 2020, but he was able to keep himself focussed on the overall competition.

“Qualifying was obviously a big thing that was in the back of my mind, but throughout the regatta it kinda faded away to the back, because I knew that would happen if I got the results I needed in the overall competition,” he said.

“I was happy with how I sailed but there were a few things, just silly mistakes that I made.”

Leilua hopes those errors will help him going forward:

“There was a lot of learning from the event, some positives and also some things to work on.”

Having competed against the best sailors in the world should help Leilua as well, and he said the regatta was a real eye-opener.

“The competition was extremely good, I’d say about 95% of the sailors are all full-time,” he said.

“They’re all sponsored, they just travel the world doing the circuit of regattas that runs throughout the year.

“It was kinda cool to see that side of it, to see the level that some sailors are at.”

Leilua is thankful to everyone in Samoa for helping to get him into this position.

“The Apia Yacht Club, Samoa Sailing Association have been tremendous through the last few months, and during the regatta as well, family in Samoa have been awesome with their support,” he said.

His workplace MG Marketing were also a big influence, as well as the Faatasi training group:

“They did a lot in terms of fundraising and financial support.”


By Thomas Airey 20 February 2020, 7:00PM

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