Athletics continues search


PRIORITIES for Athletics PNG in 2016 were to try and retain as many of the 2015 Pacific Games team as possible and at the same time continue to search for new talent through regional and national competitions.
Regional championships were staged in Kokopo for the NGI Region, Lae for Morobe, and Goroka for the Highlands.
The huge turnout at the national championships in Lae reflected the high level of interest in the sport following the Pacific Games but APNG were ill-prepared to handle such a large number of entries. Several finals were run in fading light and the age division 400m finals were not run at all.
Athletes from 14 different provinces participated in the national championships.
In spite of these difficulties an examination of the results has revealed a number of promising athletes to work on for the future, especially in the men’s sprints.
Those identified athletes are being encouraged to participate in the PNG Games, from which a development squad will be selected to travel to Fiji for the Oceania Under-20 Championships.
The decision announced early in September to postpone the 2016 PNG Games was a big disappointment to many athletes around the country and many provinces immediately scaled back or discontinued their training. The Christmas break and the beginning of the school year will certainly have a major effect on preparations for most teams with many losing contact with those athletes who take up places in schools in other parts of the country.
A group of Pacific Games team members was brought to the National Sports Institute in October 2015 in a bid to keep them in training while APNG sought more permanent arrangements for each of them. Young people and their parents today are more and more concerned about life after sport, and Athletics PNG continues to look for opportunities for its athletes that combine education with a training and competition programme.
Some of those athletes were able to return to the USA in January 2016 and the others had to relocate to Lae when the NSI was taken over by the PNG Women’s U20 Soccer team.
PNG currently has eight athletes attending college in the USA with three more expected to go in January. Nazmie Lee Marai, who graduated from UPNG last March, was recently been awarded an IAAF Scholarship to train at the Gold Coast.
He and Theo Piniau joined Toea Wisil and her coaching/ management team at the Oceania HPTC at Varsity Lakes on the Gold Coast.  APNG president Tony Green said he looked forward to establishing this type of training environment in PNG in the future.
On the international front the major event for PNG was the Melanesian Championships in Fiji attended by 27 athletes and three officials. PNG matched Fiji’s gold medal haul of 11 despite not contesting as many events as the host.
Toea Wisil qualified on merit for the Olympic Games with her national record breaking time of 11.29 seconds. Emmanuel Wanga from Lae was impressive in the U18 division winning both the 100m and 400m and placing third in the 200m. Theo Piniau came out on top after a long and close battle with Mowen Boino to earn the one male slot for Rio 2016 in athletics with a record breaking 200m time in Florida.
Rellie Kaputin and Adrine Monagi continued to break national records in the jumps and heptathlon events respectively. Ephraim Lerkin firmly established himself as PNG’s top future prospect and heir apparent to champion hurdler Boino with a number of quality performances in the 400m and 400m hurdles.
New national records were set in 10 different events in 2016, matching the number set in 2015.
Long time PNG athletics supporter and statistician Bob Snow has recently handed the responsibility for maintaining the all time best performance lists back to Athletics PNG.  This is the final part of the transition in record keeping which has seen responsibility for annual ranking lists, national records and other matters returned to Athletics PNG in recent years.
“Maintaining such records is a huge commitment and PNG will be forever indebted to Bob for his services. We wish him well in his retirement,” Green said.
In summary, 2016 has been a difficult year for the sport of athletics in PNG.
“The huge amount of money spent on team preparations for the 2015 Games and our success at those Games created the impression that APNG is a well-resourced and well-funded organisation,” Green said.
“Nothing could be further from the truth.  Like so many individual sports in PNG, athletics is still a sport that depends heavily on volunteers and the general trend towards a more professional approach to sports administration combined with huge success at the Pacific Games has increased expectations on athletics.”
A number of sports are facing these same difficulties and an excellent submission to the Government was put together by a working group of national federations and presented at the National Sports Conference.
“We sincerely hope that the Government gets the message that national federations need direct funding instead of everything going to the PNG Sports Foundation.
“The foundation has a role to play in working alongside, communicating with, and supporting sports but there are certain activities which the sports themselves must control.
“We have done our part in consistently producing results at the Pacific Games.”

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