George Yamak Papua New Guinea
By BOB SNOW
George was born 30th December 1988, in the village of Wasua near Balimo in Western Province.
Moving to his father’s village, Upiara, in the South Fly district, George began his athletics career. Initially he just ran for fun and was not part of an organised competition. His potential was recognised, and he was than selected to go the provincial capital, Daru, for the 2007 Inter-District Games. He was entered in the 1500m and 3000m events.
Later in 2007 George was selected to represent Western Province in the PNG Games in Lae, Morobe Province. It was his first time to be in a big city. He had no track shoes and badly injured his feet when he ran on the hot all-weather track for the first time.
In 2009 George was once again in the Western Province team for the PNG Games – this time in Port Moresby. His time is one he does not care to remember, and when he returned home, he was taken under the wing of two of PNG’s top representatives from the 1970’s – Goa Koiti and Iroa Pamoa. Both of these mentor/coaches accompanied the Western Province team to the next PNG Games in Ulapia/Kokopo in the East New Britain Province.
By the 2012 PNG Games he had made an enormous improvement. On a rough grass track near Kokopo (ENBP) George ran in his heat of the 1500m and won by a huge margin in the time of 4:12.41 with a gutsy front running exhibition. He also won the final in the time of 4:12.40 with a tactical sit and kick race. We knew that he had the potential to represent PNG in regional events such as the Pacific Games and Oceania Championships.
In the 2015 Oceania Championships in Cairns, George came 3rd in the 1500m, and a few months later won the silver medal in the same event at the Pacific Games in Port Moresby.
In 2016, competing in the Melanesian Regional Championship in Suva, George came 4th in the 800m (1:57.94) and 2nd in the 1500m (4:07.91).
His participation in the next Mini Games in Port Vila (2017) was cut short with an attack of malaria – always a potential problem for athletes from many Pacific Island nations. In the same year he came second in 1500m event the Oceania Championships in Suva in a slow sit-and-kick time of 4:17.28.
In the 2019 Pacific Games in Apia, Samoa, George was again entered in the 1500m. He was cruising comfortably in the pack behind the leader, Alex Beddoes (COK), when he was tripped and fell heavily to the ground. When he recovered and regained his feet, he had a huge gap between himself and the leaders. With an impressive last lap surge, he managed to get to 5th (4:09.98) leaving everyone wondering what he could have done had he not had his mid-race fall.
Since then, George has improved his personal best to 4:02.1, to rank #3 on the PNG All Time Best List.
In the 2022 Oceania Championships in Mackay George came 5th in the 800m (1:59.38) and 7th in the 1500m (4:13.59), but it was a good warm-up for the Mini Games in Saipan.
In the Mini Games, despite having a knee injury, he came 4th in the 800m (1:58.48) and 2nd in the 1500m (4:07.84), to round out his 2022 season. Next year promises much for George and all of the Pacific Islands’ athletes.
George, and his fellow members of the PNG middle distance squad are now in a race to see who can break the PNG National Record for the 1500m (4:00.02) which has stood for 25 years
Next year will be a very busy one for athletes like George, with the World Cross Country Championship in Bathurst, NSW, the PNG Games in JUly, and then the Pacific Games in Honiara, the Solomon Islands.
George has proved that it is possible for an athlete, who comes from a remote rural part of the country, with no athletics’ facilities, can make it to the national team with determination and the right sort of support. The road is not an easy one to travel – but the rewards can be significant.
On his way to win the PNG Games title – 2012.
George with his mentors / coaches, Iroa Pamoa and Goa Koiti – PNG Games 2012. Iroa and Goa were both PNG representatives in the 1970’s
George at the Oceania Championships, Mackay 2022.