Natacha Rigobert, 31, and Elodie Li Yuk Lo, 29, comprise the first beach volleyball team from Mauritius to participate in the Olympics this summer in London. The pair has had an interesting journey from finding each other to making its way to the games.
They are both Mauritian nationals, but their paths have steered them to different parts of the world. Rigobert resides in France after having immigrated to complete her tertiary education, and Li Yuk Lo immigrated to Canada with her parents at the age of six. According to Athletes in Action, the team’s journey began with Lo’s search for a partner to compete in the qualifiers of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. She said that she “traveled to Mauritius in 2006 to find a beach partner, hoping we could qualify for the 2008 Olympics,” but she could not find anyone.
Prior to their Olympics journey, both Rigobert and Lo have had successful indoor volleyball careers. According to BBC Sport, Lo played for the University of Toronto volleyball team and Rigobert has played professionally in France, as well as in the World Junior Club Volleyball Championships in Poland in 1997. However, since the two met in 2008, they have concentrated solely on the 2012 Olympics. After email and telephone correspondence, the two met in France and practiced for a short period before competing for the first time as a pair in Norway. Subsequently, Lo decided to return to France during the next three summers in pursuit of representing Mauritius at the Olympics. In 2010, Lo moved to France to commence the yearlong Olympic qualification process.
Beach volleyball is not a prominent sport in Mauritius, even though the country has long stretches of white beach sand, and facilities in the country are relatively poor. Nevertheless, the duo participated at the Women’s Continental Cup in Rwanda in May this year to secure their place in the Olympics. According to BBC Sport, Rigobert said that, “after four years of sacrifices, we are proud that we’ve done it for Mauritius.” Lo, according to Athletes in Action, is still in disbelief: “I still have to pinch myself now and then; I’m not sure it’s hit me.”
The South African men’s team will join the Mauritian women’s beach volleyball team as the only African representatives in the beach volleyball tournament. Natacha Rigobert will additionally be carrying the Mauritius flag at the opening ceremony of the Olympics. The pair’s performance thus far has been promising, and even though they might not win the title, they are making history in Mauritius.
Additional sourcing provided by Le Mauricien.