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OCEANIA ATHLETICS CHAMPIONSHIPS – 2004 Townsville (December 16-18)  By Bob Snow

Townsville is the first town to hold the OAA Championship for a second time. The infrastructure and the circle of local officials have made it an easy decision to hold the event there more than once. All the action took place at the Townsville Sports Reserve. 

The number of events on offer in the Senior competition was 38 – 20 for Men and 18 for Women. Sixteen nations, plus the usual invited guest – New Caledonia – participated. The medal tally saw New Zealand with 12 gold medals head the list, with Australia, French Polynesia and Samoa all with five each. PNG won 3, and Tonga and Fiji 2 each. All told 11 nations won gold medals and 14 made it to the final medal table. 

Andrew Moore (NZL) won the sprint double and Neil Sampson (NZL) the 800m & 1500m middle distance double. Islanders won a total of ten of the gold medals on offer to the Men – Rodney Rapasi (SOL – 3000m Steeplechase), Avele Tanielu (SAM – 110mH), Aleki Sapoi (TGA – 400mH), Rajendra Prasad (FIJ – High Jump), Melvin Hamou (NCL – Long Jump), Sandy Katusele (PNG – Triple Jump), Shaka Sola (SAM – Shot & Discus both with new Championship Records) and Faleono Seve (SAM – Hammer Throw). 

Vanuatu won the 800m Medley Relay with the following runners – John Nakou, Abraham Kepsin, Sam Kaiapam and Moses Kamut. 

The Island women won a total of 11 gold medals, with PNG’s Mae Koime winning the 100m and 200m. Fiji’s Soko Salaniqiqi won the Long Jump, but the rest of the Island gold came from Polynesia. Cecile Tiatia (PYF – 100mH & 400mH), Veronique Boyer (PYF – High Jump and Triple Jump both with Championship Records), Ana Po’uhila (TGA – Shot), Tereapii Tapoki (COK – Discus with a Championship Record), Serafina Akeli (SAM – Javelin in a Championship Record) and Dolores Dogba (PYF – Pentathlon, also with a CR). 

New Zealand’s Julia Scoones won gold in the 1500m and 5000m. 

In the Youth (U18 Division) Australia (15 gold) and New Zealand (11 gold) won the lion’s share of the 35 gold medals on offer. New Caledonia won 3 and Fiji 2 gold. Only 8 of the 19 countries present won a gold medal with 5 other nations winning either silver of bronze. 

Once again, the late December timing made it difficult for many of the Island nations to adequately prepare their athletes and allow them to cope with important school exams. Australia and New Zealand were in the middle of their Athletics’ season, whereas most of the Island nations had their peak earlier in the year. 

In the Girls’ Youth competition, Fiji’s Miriama Radiniwaimaro won the 200m and 400m events, with Toea Wisil (PNG) second in both of those races.  Other two-event-winners were Kate Johnson (AUS – 800m & 1500m), Kiri Kendall (NZL – High and Triple Jump, with a silver in the Long Jump) and Cindy Toluafe (NCL – Shot & Discus). Australia won the 800m Medley Relay with the team of Amilia Wallace, Narelle Long, Rachael Cullen and Sarah Maher. 

The Boys’ events saw Lars Hansen (AUS – 100m) a narrow winner, with Robert Crowther (AUS) being a triple gold medallist with wins in the High Jump, Long Jump and Triple Jump. Robert won the World Junior Long Jump Championship in Beijing in 2006 – with a leap of 8.00m. 

Ethiopian refugee, Terefe Ejigu, won the 1500m (4:00.73) and 3000m (8:41.04) for New Zealand. He arrived in New Zealand in 2001, speaking no English. Like many potentially talented migrants/refugees he found that Athletics was to be his springboard to success in his new country. I am sure we all know of many who fit this inspiring pattern. His life story was made into a documentary – Running for His Live. The following year he was a member of the New Zealand Team to the World Youth Athletics Championships in Marrakech, Morocco (2005). I wonder if he met Toea Wisil again there? 

In the throwing events, two Island athletes, who later made big names for themselves, had good success. Tumatai Dauphin (PYF) won the Shot and Erwan Cassier (NZL – and following on from the great success of his father Frederic Cassier) won the Hammer Throw. 

Australia won the 800m Medley Relay with the following members sharing the gold – Lars Hansen, Julius Nyambane, Andrew Yong and Jackson Mallory. 

In 2006 we are back to the islands with the Grand Prix circuit and the Oceania Senior and Youth Championships.