By ISAAC LIRI
GROWING up in Mananakele village of Kapari in Abau, Central, Lakona Gerega didn’t see himself as a javelin thrower.
But it all started in 2013 when Gerega was attending high school at Ianu where he was introduced to javelin during physical education.
The 22-year-old recalled making fun of the sport, mimicking the traditional act of hunting which he was familiar with.
He took up the sport just for fun not thinking that sooner or later, a door would open for him in athletics.
“I made fun of the sport because it reminded me of hunting in the bush using spears which is an activity our people do in the village,” Gerega said.
Prior to the Papua New Guinea Games in 2014, Central was hosting district games to select their team and out of all the talent on display, Gerega was a standout — throwing 48m was enough to get him on the plane to Lae for the first time.
Being in Lae was exciting but the experience gave Gerega nightmares after all his throws were disqualified.
He went home without a medal and only stories to tell about the sport and the opportunities.
“At the 2014 PNG Games, all my throws were disqualified because it was my first time to throw in such an event. I was really nervous,” Gerega recalls.
Gerega described his Lae experience as a stepping stone that got him to work harder on his technique.
Some would have given up after their first attempt but for Gerega, he knew there was room for improvement so he kept at it.
Today, he is part of the Athletics PNG train-on squad gearing up for the 2019 Pacific Games in Samoa.
Gerega is the national record holder, having thrown 59.43 in June.
The previous record of 58.62m was set by Albert Momberger at the 1991 South Pacific Games in Port Moresby.
He managed to win silver at the 2017 PNG Games, representing Central for the second time.
Gerega then went on to win gold at the 2018 national championships and the Southern championships.
“I feel that this sport can bring me a lot of good things, which is why I am giving a lot of effort to develop myself in javelin,” he said.
“I want to break my own record and be a role model to young people who want to pursue a career in athletics.
“I improved my technique under coach Paul Bannister.
“I am looking forward to the selection trials that Athletics PNG will have early next year and hopefully I make the final squad for the Pacific Games.
“I believe I’m the first person from my village to compete in javelin.
“Now that I am into javelin, there are many boys back in the village who are interested in the sport.
“They ask me to train them. In Kapari, rugby league is dominant but they’ve seen me do well.
“My family back home are very supportive and before I came to Goroka to join the train-on squad, they encouraged me to listen to instructions and do my best.”
By ISAAC LIRI