Eight years ago Miller Pata moved to Port Vila, the capital city of Vanuatu, from her small island home with a population of less than 2000 people. As a young very shy teenager she had no job, no money, a year seven education and little family in the city, but she had a big dream. Miller dreamt that she would one day travel overseas and play beach volleyball for her country, Vanuatu.
Less than one year after arriving in the city she was on a plane to Samoa for her first international event against the best teams in the Oceania zone. Miller and her team partner Henriette Iatika advanced through to their first international final to take home the silver medal.
Having only played beach volleyball for one year Miller started competing on the FIVB World Tour. Within two years she went from a world ranking of 350 to as high as 47, before taking time off to have a baby girl.
After playing beach volleyball for only two years, Miller’s eyes were focused on being part of the first ever Vanuatu team (and first ever Pacific beach volleyball team) to qualify for the Olympic Games. During the next three years Miller stepped out of her traditional role as a mother to go on the world tour to qualify for the Olympics. It is often difficult for Women in Vanuatu to break these cultural norms, but Miller did it and put Vanuatu on the global sporting arena. With countless wins, including gold at the Oceania Championship, FIVB Challenger Seoul, AVC China Open and silver in the Asian Championship, by 2012 her team was ranked within the top 30 beach volleyball teams in the world.
The greatest challenge faced by Miller and the Vanuatu beach volleyball team is funding their participation on the FIVB World Tour. The team regularly run local fundraisers in their communities to help meet the annual budget of USD$250,000 required to attend 17 or more international events across Asia, Europe, South and North America and Africa.
After the disappointment of narrowly missing the London Olympics in 2012, Miller and her partner qualified for the 2013 FIVB World Championship in Poland and astonishingly finished 9th in the world. 2015 is a very important year for the Vanuatu beach volleyball team as it is the Olympic qualification year. The team are currently ranked 3rd in the Asian Zone, which automatically qualifies Vanuatu for the FIVB World Championships in the Netherlands in July. This event means so much to Miller after having overcome so many hurdles in her eight year career. It is a chance of a life time to continue to support her family financially and promote gender equality in sports.
For Miller’s impressive sporting achievements in 2013 her team was awarded the Batch of Distinction medal by the Honorable Prime Minister of Vanuatu. The story of Miller has changed the perception of women in Vanuatu and proven that, in spite of gender and limited educational opportunities, success is for everybody!
If you would like to support Miller and the Vanuatu women beach volleyball team dream to qualify for Rio Olympic Games please contact the Vanuatu Volleyball Federation www.vanuatuvolleyball.com