The PNG Athletics Community is in mourning for Sophia Marai who passed away at the age of 55 at Pacific International Hospital on 23 February 2021 after a long illness
Sophia , who hailed from Tarawai Island in East Sepik Province was a dedicated member of the PNG Athletics family for over three decades. As a young educator starting her long and distinguished teaching career at Kokopo High School in 1988, her interest in the sport of Athletics also found a place in her heart. Together with Bob Snow, the late Sailas Tita, Lazarus Bureng and Rex Novulu, she started coaching young athletes and running weekend competitions.
Athletes such as 1991 South Pacific Games 100m champion Ezekiel Wartovo, as well as Elizabeth Kamilus and Rosa Maria were able to compete regularly and advance their running careers because of committed volunteers like Sophia. She participated at her first Pacific Games in 1991 as Elizabeth’s coach where she met Naomi Polum. It was then that the pair would form a lifelong friendship, and partnership in teaching and proceed to be the mainstay of Port Moresby Athletics Association until 2017 when Sophia’s ill health prevented her from continuing.
Sophia served as an Executive Member of Athletics PNG from 2000 to 2017. Her professionalism and extensive knowledge of mentoring young adults was a valuable contribution to the Board. She served as an Athletics team official at five of the six Pacific Games held between 1995 and 2015 plus many other international events including Mini Pacific Games and Oceania Championships. During this time Sophia became affectionately known as “mams Sophie” to several generations of athletes.
Her real passion in life however, was her son Nazmie Lee whom she raised mostly as a single mother. With her support, coaching and mentoring, Naz also rose in the ranks of sprinting to national representation and there was no one more proud then his beloved mother when he was selected for the Pacific Games at home soil in Port Moresby in 2015.
Sophia will be dearly missed by her athletics family in PNG and abroad. On behalf of Athletics PNG Executive, former and current athletes, coaches and officials, we convey our deepest condolences to her children Nazmie Lee , Maurice and Annette and to other members of her family. In accordance with Sophia’s wishes no immediate announcement was made at the time”.
Rest in Peace Sophia.