By MELTON PAIS
Former decathlon champion Raki Leka waited for 48 years to be recognised for his efforts. Last week he was inducted into 2017 PNG Sports Hall of Fame by the Papua New Guinea Olympic Committee.
Leka had a talent for sports and excelled in every event he participated in.
From his early school days at Kwikila and Sogeri high schools, it was clear that this young man was a born athlete.
Young Leka made his name in athletics competing in the decathlon where he utilised multiple skills.
Leka’s sporting development was intertwined with his schooling both at Kwikila and Sogeri. And it was his all around sporting prowess that no doubt led to his exploits as an all round track and field athlete in the decathlon.
While undergoing teacher training at Port Moresby Teachers Training College, he was eventually selected to represent the Territory of Papua and New Guinea at the Inter-College Meet in Sydney (Australian School of Pacific Administration — ASOPA). From there athletics became Leka’s preferred sport.
Fortunately, for Leka, he came under the wings of Bruce McKenzie from the YMCA club who was the assistant coach to chief athletics coach John Cheffers from Melbourne, Australia.
McKenzie started developing Leka’s talent and his other colleagues in the late Peiwa Waea and Kila Raula, also from Central. This was shortly before the 1969 South Pacific Games. Leka was selected for the 1969 SP Games in Port Moresby and competing in front of the home crowd, he won the decathlon with a score of 6185 points, 175 points ahead of his nearest rival.
The win put Leka into the history books as the South Pacific Games first decathlon gold medalist.
Competing again at the 1971 South Pacific Games in Tahiti, Leka performed well to claim two silver medals; one in the decathlon and one in the 110 metre hurdles.
Leka’s gold medal in the decathlon was PNG’s only win in the event at the Pacific Games until Robson Yinambe emulated the feat at the 2015 Port Moresby Pacific Games.
Competing in the decathlon, Leka broke the PNG national record in the 110m hurdles with a time of 14.84 seconds. This record stood for more than 40 years from 1971 until 2012 when it was broken by Wala Gime, who ran 14.81 seconds.
Being the country’s best decathlete, Raki was a fine all-round athlete, and as such still figures prominently on the PNG all-time-best lists in many events.
By MELTON PAIS