By ISAAC LIRI
BEING inducted into the Papua New Guinea Sports Hall of Fame, Tumat Sogolik will be remembered in the years to come.
Many Papua New Guineans of this modern era lack the knowledge of those pioneer athletes that once represented the country and set the sporting benchmark for PNG.
It was from the pre-Independence era to period immediately following Independence when these athletes rose from their humble origins to become pioneers of their respective codes.
The archives of the PNG Olympic Committee hold the records of these great men and women who walked onto the stage proudly wearing the red, black and gold.
For Sogolik, the recognition he recieved last Saturday, 38 years after winning the country’s first Commonwealth Games medal was touching not just because he had crerated his own slice of PNG sports history but also of the fact that he could have and should have gone one step better and bagged the gold medal.
The New Irelander was the victim of poor and perhaps biased judging but nevertheless showed great sportsmanship and character to accept the hand that he was dealt.
In an archived video shown during the second edition of the induction of Sogolik and four other Hall of Famers it was evident that PNG had won its first Commonwealth Games gold medal in Edmonton, Canada, in 1978.
The commenators had also assumed that Sogolik had done more enough to win the final after he battered Northern Ireland’s Barry McGuigan over three rounds of their bantamweight final.
But in a controversial decision, McGuigan and not Sogolik’s hand was raised at centre ring.
The Irishman and stolen a razor thin and controversial split points decision over the harder hitting New Irelander.
Despite team PNG’s disappointment as well as the collective groan from the greater boxing community at the travesty, the positive was that the newly independent state of Papua New Guinea had been put on the map.
Over the years, Sogolik’s accomplishment has lost its lustre simply because of the lack of knowledge by many Papua New Guineans.
It is a bigger travesty that many of today’s athletes and especially boxers that have represented the country do not know who Sogolik is and what he did in Edmonton a life time ago.
PNGOC president Sir John Dawanincura remembered that historical moment for PNG saying that even the Irish camp were resigned to the loss before the decision was announced.
“It was revealed after the match that the decision was against us, everyone knew that Tumat won that match,” Dawanincura said.
Inaugural inductee Sir John Kaputin, in his introductory speech, spoke of his journey and achievements as a sports representative and the challenges he faced including being the victim of racism in the mid 1960s.
“It was hard back then, we all knew but we had to show the true spirit of being an athlete and Tumat Sogolik’s story is one of those,” Kaputin said.
The 61-year old Sogolik recalled the Edmonton experience as if it were only yesterday with a tinge of regret mostly gratitude and acceptance at having made his country proud nearly four decades ago.
“I’ve accepted what happened those years ago, all I had in mind back then was to do the best for my country,” Sogolik said.
Governor of NCD PowesParkop presented the Hall of Fame plaque to Sogolik saying: “This is to the man who was much deserving of the gold medal that was denied him in Edmonton.”
But Sogolik was to have Queen Elizabeth II pay a surprise visit to him in his room after the McGuigan bout something even the Tsoi Islander remembers with wonder.
“After the match when I was on my way to my hotel room, I was shocked to see red carpet all the way to the elevator then out from the elevator to my room.
“Not long, I had a knock on the door and it was one of the royal guards telling me that I was to be visited by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Sogolik said.
“I asked if I could chang dressing to a formal wear but the guard said, ‘no it’s okay, just stay the way you are’.
“When she arrived I obviously had to bow and she said, ‘get up my son’, it was surely a remarkable moment, she told me that she thought I won the match and she congratulated me.”
By ISAAC LIRI