Oceania Cup Competition – Saipan

Oceania Cup Competition – Saipan

By Bob Snow

In the inaugural Oceania Cup in Port Vila, Vanuatu in 2001, the convincing winner was Australia (119 points), from New Zealand (89 points), with guests New Caledonia coming third (81 points). The regional teams came next with Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia filling positions 4. 5 & 7, and the host nation, Vanuatu, finishing in 6th Position.

The second Oceania Cup (26-27 June 2003), was held in Apia, Samoa, the week before the South Pacific Games in Suva. Australia retained their title ahead of New Zealand who were half a point ahead of Polynesia, who came third. The rules limited the number of competitors for each team and the result was many very unlikely athletes competing in even more unlikely events!

The third Oceania Cup was held on the Gold Coast in June 2021, and had very little Island participation. It was a great workout for the athletes striving for Olympic qualification. Australia won the Cup yet again, and the outstanding performer over the two days of competition was Australia’s Peter Bol who gained qualification for the Tokyo Olympics. Australia again emerged as the top team (2030 points) ahead of New Zealand (2017 points) and an Oceania Select Team (1950 points).

In this, the fourth edition of the Cup, there was no New Zealand team, and it was Australia versus the Pacific Islands, both north and south of the Equator. The question was – would Australia win the Cup for the fourth time in a row?

At the end of Day One, Melanesia headed the point score followed by Polynesia and then Australia. Who would take home the cup this time – with the Day Two events to be decided?

Melanesia vowed not to relinquish their lead and on the second day they powered on to a convincing win with 273 points defeating Polynesia (196 points) and Australia (190 points).

When will we have the next Oceania Cup? The experiment of combining the Cup with the Oceania Masters’ Championship was a huge success. The track and the field saw action steadily over the four days, and the Cup competitors were the largest teams in the brief history of the Oceania Cup.

The number of competitors in the Oceania Masters’ Athletics Championships, was also very impressive. The total number of Masters’ competitors was in excess of 80, coming from Australia, Guam, PNG, Fiji, Northern Marianas, French Polynesia, Samoa, New Caledonia, Federated States of Micronesia. There was even an athlete from Great Britain who managed to work his way into the system!

It was impressive to see the number of events that many competitors entered. We hope that their physiotherapists will help them back on the road to recovery after over-indulging on the track and the field. I was proud of all my fellow officials who threw themselves into their events with as much energy and enthusiasm as they did with the on-field, and off-field officiating.

Already there is speculation about where the next Oceania Cup will be held. We now know that it is more successful when partnered with another mass participation event such as the Masters’ Championships. Possibly an age specific competition such as U18 or U20 could produce good numbers of enthusiastic participants. Good suggestions are being encouraged.

One idea has been floated and that is to hold the next Festival of Athletics in Fiji to help them celebrate the 75th Anniversary of them joining World Athletics. Planning is already underway to come up with a suitable commemoration, and Oceania Athletics could certainly help to make this milestone more memorable.  What a great way, too, to rejoice in the fact that the All-Weather Track in Suva has been refurbished and once again able to host events to World Athletics’ standards.

It will be good to see Athletics Fiji and Oceania Athletics combine to produce three or four days of exciting action in the Stadium and along the roadways of Suva. Fiji is still said to be the “Hub of the South Pacific” and it will be easy for large numbers of competitors, who live south of the Equator, to join in with Fiji’s impressive milestone. Possibly New Zealand would join us again!