Rellie Kaputin – PNG Long Jumper – Athletics

Tokyo Olympian and Papua New Guinean long jumper, Rellie Kaputin talks about her road to the Games and reflects on some of the challenges that she faced along the way. Kaputin, entered the Games as the lowest ranked competitor in the long jump event but jumped 6.4Ms elevating her above nine other competitors finishing an outstanding 19th overall. 

Rellie, as a young girl growing up in Port Moresby dreamt of one day competing at an Olympic Games. She was inspired by her uncle John Kaputin who represented PNG in the 1962 Commonwealth Games in Perth WA. 

The Tokyo Olympics was the 28-year-olds first Olympic Games, she is determined to keep competing and aspires to make the top 10 at the 2024 Games in Paris.

In a recent catch up, Rellie had this to say… 

Tell us about your pathway to Tokyo?

It was a childhood dream that I grew up with to one day represent my country at the Olympic Games.  I joined the Athletics PNG development Squad in 2013 and was offered a scholarship to America. Knowing that I want to be an Olympian one day, I took the opportunity and trained so hard under three different coaches. When I started jumping over 6m in 2017, I got selected to go to the 2017 World Championship and 2018 Commonwealth Games. I used these two World Class competitions plus Pacific and Oceania Games to help prepare myself for Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Explain some of the challenges you faced on the road to the Games?  

Injuries and missing out on some international stage competitions. I first got injured in 2014 and missed out on my first ever Commonwealth Games in Scotland. [The] second time I got injured was in 2019 and I missed out on my second world championship in Doha. But giving up was not the option for me. I kept hurdling every obstacle on my way to make it this far. 

What was the impact of COVID pandemic on your preparation?

For myself personally, COVID-19 was a BLESSING. I cracked my fibula bone in August 2019, went on rehab for almost 6 months in Port Moresby. Got cleared to resume training back here in Australia in February last year with less chance of making it to Tokyo because I was missing a lot of competitions during my injury rehabilitation. 

When we got the news that the Olympics were being postponed to this year my coach and I were so happy. Having 12 months to build back my form was worth it. I had to stay focused on getting back stronger before the Australian competition season started in November. It was a bit tough traveling overseas to attend big competitions because of travel restrictions. We attended a lot of competitions up in Brisbane just to get points for my World Ranking and when domestic flights opened back up within Australia, we managed to get a few competitions in Canberra, Sydney and Townsville.

What was your emotions when you heard you were selected in the PNG Olympic team?

I was in my Room when I got a call from our Athletics PNG President Mr Tony Green to be the first to let me know that I got selected to Tokyo under the universality rule. I ran upstairs to let my Coach’s wife know and we both burst into tears of Joy.

 What was your feeling once your arrived in Tokyo at the Olympic Village?

The feeling of “Yes I am finally here to make my childhood dream real”. It was mixed emotions, but I had to pull myself together.

 What role did your coaches and PNG Olympic Committee play in your preparation?

My coach Phillip Newton played a really great role. We worked closely together with my every training program to achieve this lifetime dream.

PNG Olympic Committee played an important role as well by giving me the opportunity to be an Olympic Scholarship holder. This scholarship got me through the Pandemic crisis. When I got injured in 2019, they were there for me helping with transportation to and from my Rehabilitation High Performance for 6 months.

Tell us about competing in Tokyo and stepping out into an empty stadium?

A little bit nervous walking out to that big stadium but when I started doing my run throughs and started competing, I felt so confident.

I’ve been competing in a lot of competitions with an empty stadium, so I have trained my mind to never rely on the stadium’s crowds. I got out on that stadium focusing on nobody but myself, the runway and the sandpit.

What was your best experience in the Olympic Village?

Meeting different people in the elevator and having a chat with them about where they are from and what sports they are participating in.

What was your best experience in the Olympic Games?

My best experience  is “ I get to share my childhood dream turned into reality competing amongst all of the top Jumpers who I always look up to and being inspired by them through this Journey” 

What are your athletics plans for now? Commonwealth Games? Pacific Games? Paris 2024?

I am planning to go back to Australia and keep training with my Coach for the Commonwealth Games next year, Pacific Games in 2023 and also looking forward to making Paris 2024 for my second Olympic Games.

Tell us how it feels to represent your family and country?

I feel so much prouder to fly my flag amongst the world best and finished in the TOP 20. Maybe Paris 2024 will make the TOP 10.