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Jonah Harris on Track to Create Nauru History

Flag Bearers: Oceania Athletics Record Numbers
Jonah Harris

Jonah Harris, the Nauruan National Record Holder in the 100m and 200m, 2020 flag bearer, and if he finishes his 100m race, he will become the first Nauran to run at the Olympic Games.

Marcus Stephen

Nauru first competed at the Olympic Games in 1996. However, that wasn’t the first Nauran to compete at the Games. Marcus, the now Nauru National Olympic President, represented Samoa at the 1992 Games in Barcelona.

He initially played Australian rules football for the local team, the Aces, but opted to pursue the sport of Weightlifting. In 1989 the Nauru Weightlifting Federation (NWF) was founded, primarily to give Stephen, the sole top-class weightlifter in Nauru at the time, the opportunity to compete internationally. In 1992 he took part in his first Olympic Games in Barcelona. Since Nauru had no Olympic Committee, he successfully applied for Samoan citizenship and was allowed to compete for Samoa.

In 1993 the committee was founded, and Stephen represented Nauru in the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta and the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. Since 1996, Nauru has had 12 Olympians, two from Judo, nine from Weightlifting, and a sole athletics representative at the Sydney 2000 Games. Cherico Detenamo didn’t start in his heat of the 100m in Sydney.

Jonah Harris went to school in Brisbane, Australia and first represented Nauru at the 2017 Pacific Mini Games in Vanuatu when still only 18 years old. He finished a respectable 4th place in his semi-final, running 10.98 seconds, his first time under 11 seconds.

2018 would be a big year for Harris; after finishing school, he dedicated time to his athletics. He represented Nauru at four different international competitions. Starting with the world indoor championships in Birmingham running the 60m, he set a National Record of 7.03. At the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, he would run both the 100m and 200m. In the 100m, he would lower his personal best to 10.95 seconds. Harris, still a junior, would head to Tampere, Finland, for the World Under 20 Championships. In Tampere, he would again run the 100m. Whilst not running his best, he still ran a respectable 11.11 into a headwind.

After Tampere, Harris headed straight to the Micronesian island of Yap for the Micronesian Games. Yap, one of the remotest parts of the world, it took Harris a couple of days to travel there from Finland. As Harris already had travel plans booked, it was agreed that he would be the only representative for the Republic of Nauru. A week out from the Games, Nauru had to withdraw from the Games due to travel costs to Micronesian Islands.

As the sole competitor, whilst feeling extra pressure, “I felt extra pressure because … I’m the only one,” Harris said. “I got that pressure and put it out on the field, and it helped me perform. Hopefully, I did what everyone expected of me.” Harris ended up winning five medals, 2 Golds, 2 Silvers and 1 Bronze. He won the hotly contested 100m as well as the long jump. Harris also finished second in the High Jump and 200m, and bronze in the triple jump. His two gold medals were the same amount of medals that Kiribati won.

In 2019, Harris continued his rise as one of the most promising sprinters in the Pacific. He made the semi-final of the 100m at the Oceania Championships in Townsville. At the Pacific Games, only two weeks later, he made the final after running a National Record 10.82 in the Semi-Finals and backing it up with 10.94 to finish 8th in the final. He would cap off his year representing Nauru at the World Championships in Doha.

Harris, who has been back on the island of Nauru, competed recently at their Constitution Day National Championships. The constitution day National Athletics Championships is the most significant event in Nauru, with everyone turning out to watch. Harris was the star this year, winning multiple events and helping his Blue Team win the title.