Athlete Profile: Banuve Tabakaucoro FIJI

Athlete Profile: Banuve Tabakaucoro FIJI

Banuve Tabakaucoro            

By Bob Snow

Banuve was born on 4th September 1992 in Suva. He has had a long and distinguished history in Oceania Athletics. He holds the fastest ever 100m time by a Pacific Islander – 10.20 seconds, set on his home track in Suva at the Melanesian Regional Championships in July 2016.

His list of gold medal successes is awesome.

In various Oceania Championships he has won (including relays) 15 gold medals and 6 silver medals. In Pacific Games and Pacific Mini Games competitions (including relays) he has won 15 gold and 5 silver medals. Had he not had a short stint as a Rugby Union player, he would have won more.

In Pacific Games, Banuve has won the 100m/200m double three Games in a row (2011 Noumea, 2015 Port Moresby & 2019 Apia), and has won the same double twice in the Mini Games (2013 Wallis & Futuna & 2022 Saipan). In 2017 Banuve was not participating in Athletics.

Banuve, like most top Fiji athletes in recent decades, started his Athletics’ career participating in the Coca Cola Games – the annual Fiji Secondary Schools’ Athletics Championships, which is the largest school competition in Oceania, with over 3000 athletes, from over 130 high schools competing.

In 2007 he won the Junior Boys’ Long Jump with a distance of 5.99m. No sprinting results from this year. In 2008 he made an inauspicious start to his sprinting career with a distant 7th in the 100m, after sustaining an injury mid-race.

The following year, however, we saw a fitter and better prepared Banuve, force all to take notice of his talent.

In 2009, very early in the Fiji Athletics’ season, he went to the Australian Youth Olympic Festival in Sydney. He won a silver medal in the 100m – twice. In the initial race he crossed the line second and was presented with his silver medal by Yvonne Mullins. There was a protest, and the race was re-run, with Banuve coming second again, and receiving another silver medal from Yvonne.

A few months later, at the peak of the Fiji Athletics season, Banuve as a fully fit 17-year-old, won the Coke Games Intermediate Boys’ 100m in 10.71 and the 200m in 21.70 seconds. The 100m record was faster than that for the Senior Boys’ Division.

The Inter-Schools competition in 2010 saw Banuve disqualified in the 100m and he did not compete in the 200m. Next year as a 19-year-old he again totally dominated the sprint events winning the Senior Boys 100m (10.43) and the 200m (21.04). 

His Intermediate Boys and Senior Boys 100m and 200m records still stand.

Apart from his stellar record in the Oceania and Pacific Games competition, Banuve has competed in the Commonwealth Youth Games in Pune, India (2008), the World Youth Championships in Brixen, Italy (2009), the Universiade in Shenzhen, China (2011), World Championships, Moscow, Russia (2013), Commonwealth Games, Glasgow, Scotland (2014), World Championships, Beijing, China (2015), World Championships, Doha (2019), Olympic Games Tokyo, Japan (2021), the World Championships in Eugene, Oregon (2022) and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham (2022).

In 2015 Banuve finished 2nd in the Australian Nationals 100m Final in the time of 10.26 seconds, which at the time was a new Fiji National Record.

Using the official World Athletics Scoring Tables, Banuve’s best ever performance was his 20.53 into a 1.5mps headwind in winning the 200m gold medal at the 2015 Pacific Games in Port Moresby. The tables allocate 1147 points for that performance.

Like all athletes in the Pacific Islands, the Covid Pandemic seriously interrupted training and competition. Despite this Banuve continued to prepare for his 2022 competitions – mainly in Fiji but at the last minute in Australia. In 2023 it is hoped that he can spend more time in Australia preparing for the Oceania Melanesian Championships in Lautoka, and the Pacific Games in Honiara, the Solomon Islands.

The main 2022 domestic performances for Banuve were to win the 100m and 200m double at the Fiji National Championships in April (winning times being 10.96 and 21.62 seconds). After arriving in Australia and fine-tuning his preparation, he competed in the Oceania Regional Championships in Mackay, being the top Islander in the 100m (10.56) and the 200m (21.37).

From Mackay it was on to Saipan for the Mini Pacific Games where Banuve yet again took out the sprint double – 100m in 10.56 and the 200m in 21.11 seconds.

The World Championships in Eugene was the next in line, and Banuve had an unfortunate DQ because his reaction time of .096 was too fast. Although technically he left the blocks after the gun, his reaction time was deemed to be too fast – by .004 of a second. World Athletics might need to look at how fast the current athletes are in deciding if this rule should be revised. It is increasingly becoming a controversial topic.

Without much time to catch his breath it was off to the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. The rapid fire of the major competitions was very difficult for an athlete who had not had an ideal preparation. Banuve ran in the 100m and recorded the time of 10.64 seconds into a gentle wind. 

After such a whirlwind tour it was back home to plan for a top-quality preparation for the important competitions in 2023 – the Fiji Nationals, the Melanesian Championships (in June in Lautoka) and the Pacific Games. Pacific Island history is on the line as Banuve tries to win the sprint double for the fourth time – a feat nobody else has achieved. We wish him well in his endeavours and will follow his progress with interest.

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In addition to the two silver medals, Banuve also collected two boxing kangaroos at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival in Sydney (2009)

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Banuve & Mowen Boino (PNG) at the closing ceremony of the 2013 Oceania Championships in Tahiti. Banuve has made many friends right across the Pacific because of his involvement in Athletics. All the Island athletes form a bond when they meet time and time again at either Pacific Games or Oceania Athletics organised events. The camaraderie is noticeable and has been for the forty+ years that I have had involvement in inter-Pacific Islands’ competitions.

In making a comment for the profile, Banuve prepared the following observations about his rise to the top of Pacific Islands’ sprinting.

The 100m has always been the highlight of any games thanks to the legendary Usain Bolt who made it even more popular. By that point I was just beginning to climb through the ranks and by 2009 I had broken the inter boys record which was also faster than the senior boys’ record. That attracted a lot of the sponsors and I was fortunate enough to secure Digicel for a couple of years. 2011 was the year I really made it big with 3 Gold medals in Noumea while still in school and most likely the youngest person ever to win the prestigious Pacific title. Sponsors just like any other company demand results and I was fortunate enough to be trained by Bola Tafoou and Albert Miller. Having talent is one thing but surrounding yourself with the right team is just as important, especially the people who manage your sponsorships.

The Pacific Island athletes that have significant sponsors and associations behind them are much more likely to succeed over many years. So many athletes in the Islands are great at the school level, but then higher education, employment and marriage take over and with no additional support to enable training and overseas competition, the careers of many talented athletes come to an end.

Banuve has been lucky to have had great support from his family – grandparents, parents and from his wife. 

A proud grandfather has built a large display case for all of the medals that Banuve has won from his school days until the latest Mini Games in Saipan. A new display case is now needed for the medals of the future.

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Banuve at Fiji Nationals in Suva – 2022. 

Banuve is a fine example of a top school athlete who has been given the right incentives and opportunities to stay in the sport. At the time of writing Banuve has just celebrated his 30th birthday and has proved that he has a lot more quality sprinting yet to come.

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Below – Qualifying Round, Doha 2019.

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Banuve in Round 1 of the 100m in Doha, World Championships, 2019.

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For many years Banuve has been the face of Athletics in Fiji. On the day of the Opening Ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, he graced the front page of the Fiji Times.