The hosting of the World Cross Country Championships in Bathurst NSW in February 2022 is seen as a great opportunity for PNG Athletics and preparations began earlier this year with the establishment of a small training group of national squad athletes at Utmei Secondary School, ENB under the guidance of National Coach Bernard Manau.Thanks to Athletics Olympic Dividend Project Funding from World Athletics, a second and larger training camp is now underway in Kerowagi, Simbu Province. There are a total of nine male and ten female athletes in the Camp to start with, said co ordinator Philip Kamane himself a former representative distance runner now working at the National Sports Institute.
Kamane said that Simbu Province has provided most of the distance runners that have represented PNG in recent years and it is hoped that by establishing a programme such as this, more athletes will be drawn into joining the training programme. “We will conduct some road and cross country races as part of the programme he said which will hopefully highlight some more hidden talent”.Some of the athletes will be in the Camp only for the duration of the school holiday, and when they return to school it will create some space so we may add some more local athletes, he said. Local Simbu coaches Arnold Gigmai and Sapolai Yao are expected to assist with the training and with other national coaches coming in for periods of time.
The programme objective is to raise the standard of distance running in PNG which has been in a state of decline in recent years said APNG President Tony Green. Whilst our athletes have been breaking National records in sprints, hurdles jumps and throws in recent years, most of the men’s national records in long-distance events date back to the 1970’s and 80’s whereas most of the women’s records were set by Rosemary Omundsen in the early 1990s. The training programmes in Kerowagi and ENB will be complemented by a suitable competition programme for the athletes, including cross country experience in Australia in 2021 and a period of final preparation in Australia for the selected athletes from December 2021 to February 2022.