The National, Wednesday 25th July, 2012
By HENRY MORABANG
ATHLETE of the Year Toea Wisil will have the honour of carrying our national flag into the stadium when the London Olympics starts.
Wisil will become only the ninth person to carry the distinctive Bird of Paradise red, yellow and black standard when she walks into the 2012 Games opening ceremony that will be televised live by EMTV from 6am on Saturday.For a simple village girl from Banz, Jiwaka, it will be like walking on top the world.
When fellow female weightlifter Dika Toua and swim sensation Ryan Pini were preparing for their first Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, in 2004, today’s track queen was a teenager in her village who never dreamt of reaching such heights in athletics.
She had no idea about the Olympics Games, instead concerned only with preparing for the inaugural national Grassroots Games that was staged at the National Sports Institute, Goroka, Eastern Highlands.
While Toua and Pini used 2003 preparing for Athens, the 14-year-old Wisil was being plucked out of her typical Highlands round-house hamlet in Komgambil village to represent Western Highlands in the PNG Games.A barefoot Wisil was first spotted lining up in the sprint.
She did not win but she performed well enough to catch the eyes of the Athletics Union officials, including president Tony Green.
That was the turning point into becoming a champion who has risen into dominating the Pacific Games.
Today’s globe-trotter is the result of the hard work and sheer determination she has put in.
One commentator on social network Facebook, Bernard Sinai, said Toea Wisil had earned her place as the Pacific’s sprint queen and won over countless hearts.
“However, her greatest feat is remaining an ‘original’ Papua New Guinean, which has gone down well with many of her country folk,” he said.
When the Games open, Wisil will walk in front of our largest ever contingent of eight competitors.
Weightlifter Toua was our flag-bearer in the 2004 Athens Games and Pini had the honour four years in Beijing, China.
Wisil is the fifth member of the athletics team to be named as flag-bearer; the others being Wavali Kali (1976 Montreal Olympics), Sports Foundation executive director Iammo Launna (1984 Los Angeles Olympics), Takale Tuna (1988 Seoul Olympics) and Subul Babo (1996 Atlanta Olympics).
The PNG Sports Federation and Olympic Committee yesterday announced Wisil as the ninth Olympics flag-bearer.Wisil is a two-time winner and reigning SP Sports Award Female Athlete of the Year, the national and Pacific champion in the 100m, 200m and 400m and holds national records for the 200m and 400m.
Her selection as flag-bearer adds another distinction to an increasingly impressive career that saw her reach the 100m final at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, in Delhi, India, where she finished fourth.
At the 2011 Noumea Pacific Games, Wisil was the undisputed track queen, claiming five gold medals by completing the 100m and 200m double, in addition to taking out the 400m, and the 4x100m and 4x400m relay teams.
Chef de Mission, Syd Yates said it was hard to look past Wisil for a flag bearer “as her story epitomises the magic of how sport can transform lives”.
“To think that less than 10 years ago Toea was running barefoot at the 2003 PNG Games and in less than three days she will be leading Team PNG as the world watches, carrying the flag at the opening ceremony is the stuff of fairy tales.
“Her determination and dedication to becoming the best she can be will culminate in London when she represents PNG at the highest level possible for an athlete, the Olympic Games.”
Wisil has been preparing well for the Games, with consistent performances in competitions in Australia where she was based earlier in the year with training partner Sally Pearson, the 110m hurdles world record holder, and later in Stockport, England, where she is based in the final lead-up to the Games.
Athletics team manager Green, who is in London, said: “Toea is clearly PNG’s top female athlete and with her recent performances she should be at her peak by the time she takes the track for the women’s 100 metres.”Past flag bearers for Team PNG at the Olympic Games:
1976 Montreal, Canada – Wavala Kali (athletics), 1984 Los Angeles, USA – Iammo Launa (athletics), 1988 Seoul, South Korea – Takale Tuna (athletics), 1992 Barcelona, Spain – John Dawanincura (PNGSFOC), 1996 Atlanta, USA – Subul Babo (athletics), 2000 Sydney, Australia – Xenia Peni (swimming), 2004 Athens, Greece – Dika Toua (weightlifting), 2008 Beijing, China – Ryan Pini (swimming).