By ROBINSON LEKA
IN just his second year in athletics, East Sepik development athlete Emmanuel Anis has managed to beat some of the best sprinters in Papua New Guinea.
Despite his remarkable progress, the 19-year-old – who has now caught the attention of Athletics PNG (APNG) president Tony Green – says he is still learning his way around the track.
Anis continued to turn heads when he clocked 10.695 seconds to edge favourite Leroy Kamau (10.699s) in the 100m final of the West New Britain (WNB) championships at Sasi Muthuvel Stadium in Kimbe over the weekend.
The Wewak native admitted that even he was impressed with the feat, given that his boyhood dream was to play rugby league at the highest level for his country.
Born in Wewak on April 20, 2001, the Bishop Leo Secondary School student is the eldest of three children to parents Alex and Jude.
Growing up in Wewak, he was mostly involved in rugby league at an early age with his dad an avid follower of the sport and president of the Wewak Rugby League.
His first foray into athletics was last year when he was asked to join his school team to take part in an inter-school athletics carnival.
“At the time, I was playing rugby league but one of my coaches told me to give athletics a shot,” Anis said.
“Not really knowing what was going to happen, I took part in the carnival at Maprik Secondary and that was the first time I actually competed and I ran some good times.
“After the carnival I was asked to join the East Sepik team.
“I didn’t know much about athletics at the time. But I’ve now come to appreciate the training and hard work required in athletics.”
An unknown athlete from East Sepik, Anis raised eyebrows when he clocked 10.77s in heat one of the 100m during last year’s championships in Kimbe.
Who is this guy? Can he repeat the feat in the final? These were questions that observers were asking themselves.
East New Briton and Pacific Games representative Michael Penny won the final as expected and Anis finished fifth in a time of 11.36s.
Further disappointment was to hit the youngster, as he was unable to compete in the 200m due to a hamstring injury.
So as the teams dispersed and the results were placed on record, APNG was left to wonder whether this was a flash in the pan.
Fast forward to this month, coach Malcolm Limbai took on board Green’s advice that another trip to Kimbe would be of great benefit to Anis as he prepared for the national championships.
“My parents have been really supportive of my athletics career,” Anis said.
“They told me that it was good that I was trying something new.
“My dad was really impressed with my results from last year’s championships in Kimbe, so he was the one who really pushed me to get to where I am today.”
With his Grade 12 national exams out of the way this year, Anis was able to focus on his training for the WNB championships. All eyes were on Kamau in the men’s sprints and although the 200m was his main event, no-one expected him to be pushed all the way in the 100m.
But this is just what happened and whilst Kamau was wary of Paias Wisil on his inside, he didn’t see the Sepik speedster on his outside until the race was over and Anis had edged him by just 4/1000 of a second.
This time, Anis was better prepared for two events and was equally impressive in the 200m where he clocked a huge personal best of 22.9sec, beating Pacific Games representative Benjamin Aliel and Daniel Baul in the race for second place behind a dominant Kamau.
“I’m a rugby player,” Anis said.
“Growing up, all I ever wanted to do was play rugby league but athletics is something special and new to me.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think of pursuing athletics.
“Now, I want nothing but to represent my country.
“The door is open for me in athletics so I’m taking my opportunity with arms wide open and I hope I can go on to give my best for my family, friends, province and country.”