Birmingham 2022: Fijian para-athlete Latu defies odds; travels the world amid challenges

Akanisi Lutu at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England. Picture: ROHIT DEO

“Table tennis has changed my life.”

These were the words of 64-year-old para-table tennis athlete Akanisi Latu.

The Valelevu Hart Nursing Home resident competed at the 2022 Commonwealth Games for Fiji.

According to Latu, she started playing table tennis eight years ago and at that stage, had no idea the sport would take her places.

She cannot walk, uses a wheelchair to get around, but that did not deter her from her goal of representing the country.

“It was really tough in the beginning when I started. The travelling cost and then people look at you in a different way makes you feel awkward,” Latu said.

“Then slowly I became used to it. Made some friends at training who would help me move from one place to another and also help me in my game.”

She has represented Fiji in competitions in Australia, Samoa, New Zealand and now England.

She said table tennis had brought her a long way.

“I had never imagined travelling anywhere due to my condition. I have been like this since I remember and I had no hopes of taking part in sports, but look where it brought me.”

She speaks with a grin on her face and is someone who will keep on smiling.

The Levuka woman adds she has tried to get many of her friends take up table tennis but it was too costly.

“I pay about $80 in fares every week and I do not work or have any sponsor. It is through the help of family and church members that I am able to cope up.”

She advised people with disabilities to never give up on their dreams and treat their disability as a weapon to fight against the challenges they face.

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