Under the watchful eye of PNG’s High Performance Director, Dior Lowry, a large group of athletes has spent months in preparation for the 2018 National Athletics Championships in Port Moresby (24-26 August). This training and coaching has also provided a solid foundation for the important competitions in 2019 – the Oceania Athletics Championships in Townsville in June, and the Pacific Games in Apia, Samoa, in July.
It is heartening to see many former athletes who are involved in this coaching programme. Wala Gime, Anton Lui and Kupun Wisil have come on board as part of the coaching team. From other provinces Alan Akia, Wilson Malana, Nabase Duaba, Sharon Kwarula, Nelson Stone, Monica Henao also help PNG athletes to improve their performances. Two current athletes, Peniel Richard and Ephraim Lerkin provide valuable assistance to the Goroka-based athletes.
The athletics’ squad is headed by the PNG National Record Holder in the 100m, 200m and 400m – Toea Wisil. Now based in Goroka she has joined with many established and up-and-coming athletes. Toea has made good progress since her transfer from the Gold Coast to Goroka, and is keen to defend her 100m, 200m and 400m crowns in Apia. She knows that there are many good athletes who are improving rapidly, so she must be in top form when she goes to Townsville and Apia in 2019. No athlete has won the sprint-treble crown three Games in a row. With good discipline and hard work Toea could be the first and create Pacific Games history.
The sprinters are well represented by Toea Wisil, Pias Wisil, Jobby Kinzu, Linus Kuravai, Leonie Beu, Isila Apkuk and Ricky Corey. Hurdlers are Ephraim Lerkin (who is venturing into the middle distance realm as well) and Raylyne Kanam. Middle and long distance runners are Jenny Albert, Abel Siune, Martin Orovo, Simbai Kaspar and Freddy Messach. The athletes come from all parts of the country.
Two AWD/Parasports/ Handisports athletes, are also part of the group – Steven Abraham (T46 sprints) and Morea Mararos (F34 – Discus). PNG’s Paralympic silver medal winner in the 100m, Francis Kompaon (T46 – 11.10 seconds), trained and prepared for the Beijing Paralympics in 2008 at NSI.
The National Athletics Championships in Port Moresby is a vital stepping-stone for all athletes who hope to be in the final squad to the Pacific Games in 2019. At the completion of the championship, a large potential squad will be selected and the necessary paperwork will commence to ensure that they are properly registered with the National Olympic Committee. The Pacific Games are still eleven months away, but preparation must begin early if the right people are to be sent to Apia in July of 2019, and nobody misses out because they were not identified early enough to complete all of the formalities.
Dior Lowry is confident that the NSI based athletes will do well in the National Championships. We will see how they go, and another report will give all of the highlights of the three-day meet at the Sir John Guise Stadium – home of the Athletics competition in the 1991 and 2015 Pacific Games.
In the week before the championships, much work has been done around the Sports’ Institute to prepare for the internationally famous Goroka Show, which will be held in September. The PNG High Performance section of Athletics PNG will be having a stall at the show to promote our sport and recruit many young people to come and “give it a go”. It will also be an opportunity to introduce many Rugby League players to the Shot and Discus, and convince some Softball and Cricket players that with a good strong arm they can make their mark in the Javelin.
There is an innovative series of races in which young people can line up against the top sprinting stars, with a handicap. Will be great fun, and the sport will be showcased to a wider audience.
It has been 20 years since I was last at the National Sports Institute. I am still very enthusiastic about its value to PNG, and potentially the wider region, in the preparation of sporting teams. The climate is fantastic, and the 1500m altitude is great for developing stamina. The grass track is, as always, immaculate, but there might be plans to soon replace it with an all-weather track, and a serious up-grade of all of the facilities. Here’s hoping. That would make the National Sports’ Institute the “go-to” training destination for all PNG sports and many from the Oceania Region.