Golden girl Toua has a point

Editorial, Normal

The National, Wednesday July 15th, 2015

 THERE is life beyond sport and that point has to be made. 

One of Papua New Gui­nea’s household names, champion weightlifter Dika Toua has broken her silence on this subject that has been tossed to and fro for a while.

Even while the Pacific Games are underway, the Government and the Opposition cannot agree on whe­ther a financial incentive to our medal winning athletes could indeed be a disincentive.

Taking on board a recommendation from the Papua New Guinea Olympic Committee, the Government is using this regional sporting event to trial this cash award for our sportsmen and women.

Irrespective of the arguments on the matter so far, an observation by Team PNG’s chef de mission Richard Kassman should be a timely reminder. 

That is, a majority of the young people who make up the team in all the different sports are either students or unemployed.  

Their development to their current competitive level deserving selection for Team PNG has been due to largely personal and family sacrifices and some corporate sponsorship. In preparation of 2015, the Government has had a hand in the formation of the current athletes.

Toua has made a call on the Government to provide more support for athletes. 

For athletes of her calibre and status, many of whom have gone before and are now in retirement, representing the country has been a great honour and privilege.  

There is no arguing what they have contributed to the general well-being of the country as role models for youngsters. Moreover, sports stars, like popular musicians and other cult figures, have enjoyed the adulation and admiration of people across the length and breadth of the nation.

You only have to ask Ryan Pini, Toua or Steven Kari to appreciate their magnetic impact on the thousands of fans, both young and old.  

The feeling of oneness generated by their exploits on the international stage cuts across the hundreds of tribes who, in their own languages, express their joy of being born Papua New Guinean. The long hours of arduous training, the mental and physical exertion and pushing the body to the very limits all pays of in medals. 

Behind the success are often untold stories of personal and family sacrifices.

Until very recently, corporate sponsorships and a specifically-targeted govern­ment funding have been limited.

The Go for Gold programme specifically to develop athletes for this Pacific Games is commendable as already in the first week of competition, many medal winners have acknowledged that as a major contributor to their success.

Toua’s comments in our story this week may be unfortunate coming at a time when the euphoria of the country’s success both in the staging of the event and actual competitions midway through the two-week event should not be permitted to be soured in any way.

Nevertheless, her argument is valid.  

Athletes, especially those whose main occupation is their game and honing their skills for the next outing, ought to be recognised and rewarded for their bit in nation building.

She has spoken out not only for herself but all other athletes for representing the country.

A long term funding or some other form of incentive for athletes who have done the country proud should be planned so there is life after sports.

Unfortunately, both here and many other countries, sporting heroes are forgotten quite rapidly once they have fallen out and away from the limelight.  

Life for those without any other formal training, education or financial security turns out to be real struggle.

The Government’s cash incentive announced by the Sports Minister will go a long in helping such sportsmen and women. 

Besides helping them to develop their skills further, by the use of better equipment or access to facilities, there are additional possibilities open for them to invest such an incentive for their families such as in the small to medium enterprise sector.

The Government will spend over K5 million in cash incentives to medal winners of Team PNG, setting a precedent that must be maintained for future athletes as well.