Noah’s love for sport, country

Saturday January 05, 2019 Written by Published in Other Sports

Noah Vilisoni-Heather is creating ripples in the pool with a hope of making his country proud in the sport of swimming.


And the 17-year-old Auckland teenager says it’s the love for the Cook Islands that gives him the hope and aspirations to achieve the best in the sport.

Vilisoni-Heather, who has paternal links to the village of Arorangi through father John, made his debut for the country at the Commonwealth Youth Games in 2017.

He is hungry for more opportunities to make the Cook Islands proud.

“I was the only swimmer representing the Cook Islands at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Bahamas. I broke two national records at that event – in 50 metres butterfly and 50m freestyle,” he said.

“I’m excited with the prospect in the coming year (2019). I’m hoping to get more opportunities to represent my country on the world stage and put the Cook Islands right up there.

“I’m also hoping to gain some experience with more international events under my belt.”

Vilisoni-Heather, who is visiting Rarotonga to spend some time with family this festive season, trains in Thailand under a FINA (international swimming federation) scholarship.

Last year he took part in a number of international swimming events in Malaysia and Bangkok which featured FINA scholarship recipients.

“The scholarship was for the whole of 2018 but it has been extended, so it will carry on to 2019,” he said.

“Right now my focus is swimming training but I’m thinking of doing tertiary studies in 2019.”

Vilisoni-Heather’s mother Glenda Vilisoni, who is from Niue, said like other Cook Islanders, the youngster started with rugby but later switched to swimming.

“We started Noah a bit too early with rugby at an age of six and he didn’t like it (rugby) too much. When he was nine, I used to take him along to his sister’s swimming classes and I thought he should join in too. That’s how his swimming journey started,” Glenda said.

Vilisoni-Heather, who competes in sprint events, said he looks up to American swimmer and Olympic gold medalist Caeleb Dressel, who also specialises in the sprint events.

He is inspired by Dressel’s speed and agility and hopes to someday emulate his idol’s feats.

His immediate plan is to improve on his swimming tactics and times as he prepares for the long course championship in South Korea in July this year.

The 2019 Pacific Games in Samoa is also one of his targets but it will clash with the long course event.

Vilisoni-Heather’s advice to the younger generation in the Cook Islands is to listen to their parents.

“Always work hard and try to correct your mistakes because that’s how you can learn from them. Just don’t give up no matter what.”

Mum Glenda thanked Cook Islands Sports and National Olympic Committee for the opportunity to represent the country, adding her son was looking forward to hoisting the national flag with pride in more international events.

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