by Bob Snow
In Nouméa for the first Oceania Trail Championships, I spent an afternoon with Sandra Lambrani (the New Caledonian Technical Director and Throws Coach) and her athletes at the Mont Dore facility on the outskirts of the capital.
The Mont Dore area has a wealth of sporting facilities. Next door to the throwing complex is the Oceania Weightlifting Institute and a series of Basketball courts.
It was at this ground that the two gold medals for the Men’s and Women’s Hammer Throw were decided in the 2011 Pacific Games. The cage for hammer and discus is there permanently.
In the past, New Caledonia was always known for its expertise in the technique events – especially throwing. In the 2015 Pacific Games, New Caledonia won only one male throwing gold medal, and that to one of its “senior citizens” – Erwan Cassier, and two to “veteran” ladies – Elise Takosi and Linda Selui. The “oldies” returned to the sport to help their country in its hour of need. Sandra took over control of the training and coaching after the Port Moresby Games.
Initially there were only two athletes who would turn-up to training at the Mont Dore facility. Gradually over the last two years the numbers have grown and grown, and when I was there at least 15 serious athletes were in training, and several were there just “giving it a go”. Every Wednesday former athletes and parents turn up to help with the coaching. It is a very cohesive community all wanting to help New Caledonia back to its pre-eminent position in the Throws.
Two young women stood out as having exceptional talent.
Fourteen-year-old Lesley-Telesia Filituulaga has thrown the shot 13.10m so far this year. She also throws the discus, hammer and javelin. She has been entered in all four events for the Oceania Championship. For her age, she is world ranked in the shot.
Seventeen-year-old Ashley Bologna has thrown the shot 15.76m, and like Lesley she is entered in multiple events for Suva. Likewise, she is highly ranked in the world.
At the other end of the age-divisions we have the evergreen, trim and fit-looking Linda Selui. In her 40th year she is still highly competitive. Her Javelin pb of 57.32m was set at the 2011 Pacific Games in Nouméa. Sandra is confident that in Suva she will throw between 48-50m. Linda has won the gold in the Pacific Games three times – 1999 (Guam), 2011 (Nouméa) and 2015 (Port Moresby). She won medals in the 1993 Mini Games in Port Vila and the 1994 Oceania Championships. She has competed in Pacific Games, Mini Games, Oceania Championships and Oceania Grand Prix competitions. A true veteran of our sport.
The training at Mont Dore encompasses many phases. After the warm-up there are exercises for mobility, rhythm and coordination. They are followed by technique work and then strength work.
All of the throwers are coached in the four throwing disciplines. It has been the New Caledonian policy for many years. They show great versatility.
The younger students arrive by 3.30-4.00 pm and are the first to leave to ensure they can get their homework done. The workers arrive at sunset and the ground lights are turned-off at approximately 8.00 pm.
It is easy to see the optimism that by the 2019 Pacific Games, New Caledonia will be seeing some of these young newcomers on the podium. We wish them well. In the meantime we will have a chance to see them in action in Suva during next month’s Oceania Athletics Championships in Suva.