Melanesian athletics meet starts today

The National, Thursday July 7th, 2016

THE Melanesian Athletics Championship set to start today at the ANZ Stadium in Suva is bigger than the athletics competition at the Pacific Games in Papua New Guinea.
Athletics Fiji president Joe Rodan said 13 nations and some 700 athletes and officials would be participating in the biggest athletics championship held in Fiji since the Pacific Games in 2003.
Rodan said at least three hotels in Suva had been booked for athletes and officials.
“This is leading towards a very successful event and creating a pathway for us as we look forward to host the Oceania Championships next year,” he said. Oceania Athletics Association executive director Yvonne Muller commended Athletics Fiji and noted that the numbers of athletes were more than double when compared with the Pacific Games last year.
“This is very big for us. We have been commended for the turn around. Only 18 months ago, the federation was on the brink of being not in good standing with the IAAF(International Associations of Athletics Federation),” Rodan said.
“We have risen to become a guiding light in the region and that position is acknowledged by the OAA and the IAAF.
“It is important we maintain this momentum.”
The championships which start tomorrow would showcase the best athletes in the region as this would present the last opportunity for many athletes to qualify to the Olympic Games in Rio.
The fastest man and woman in the Pacific, Fiji’s own Banuve Tabakaucoro and the untouchable Toea Wisil from PNG would be blazing the tracks today.
Rodan said Fiji had fielded 250 athletes in what was their next step to provide a development pathway for athletes who shone at the Coca-Cola Games.
“This pathway was not there. Our ability to host such events provides that development. Our showing in the Pacific Games was below par,” he said.
“Only Banuve won his two sprints events in the men’s and the women had only one gold medal on the tracks. PNG dominated. We had set aside a four-year plan and this is moving forward.”
Rodan said the young athletes were also an example to the people of Fiji on how they should live their lives.
“I am hoping that the performance of Fiji’s athletes is able to inspire Fijians to become active. Non-communicable diseases are killing us. Only diet will not do. We need to get off our backs and start moving as well,” he said.  – FijiTimes