Athletics PNG’s 38 strong squad is primed to take to the track and field in Saipan Northern Marianas Islands from June 21 to 25. The team of 24 male and 14 female athletes will head to Saipan in three groups this weekend from Port Moresby , Brisbane and Los Angeles. Thirteen US based athletes and Coach Nelson Stone will fly to Saipan via Honolulu and Guam with some stopping over in Los Angeles this weekend for a final lead up competition.
A total of 20 athletes have been competing at the Oceania Championships in Mackay , Qld this week and the highlights so far have been a National Record of 53.33m in the mens discus for Debono Paraka ; an outstanding 10,000m performance from Siune Kagl; and a stunning 400m time from multi event athlete Karo Iga. Young middle and long distance runners Adolf Kauba and Aquila Turalom are also in good form and running personal best times.
PNG is set for a strong showing in the mens long distance events especially the 3000m steeplechase and 10,000m. Four athletes clocked times of under 10mins for the steeplechase in Port Moresby last weekend led by Turalom (9min 40 secs) , Israel Takap (9:44) , Wilford Baia (9:52) and Abel Siune (9:59). Kagl is expected to be joined by Dilu Goiye and Baia in the 5000m and 10000m events.
Pacific Sprint queen Toea Wisil is not in her best form and her recent times have been well below her best, however she remains determined to give her best at the Games.
PNG does have good back up in the sprints with Leonie Beu and Isila Apkup. In the mens sprints the big question will be whether Banuve Tabacaucoro of Fiji can hold off the challenge of Leroy Kamau and the other PNG sprinters in the 200m.
Fiji has relied heavily on their star sprinter in the past few Pacific Games, but like Wisil, his recent times have been below his best. Tabacaucoro has been improving in the 100m with every race and he will be the man to beat in this event, however not much is known about his 200m form and it will be interesting to see if his experience will see him through what is sure to be a stiff challenge.
Rellie Kaputin only recently returned to Australia to prepare for these Games and is a little rusty after nine months back in PNG. However there hasn’t been any Pacific Islander close to Rellie in the horizontal jumps in recent years other than Annie Topal and PNG’s hopes will again rest on the East New Britain pair to bring home the gold.
National record holder Peniel Richard will start favourite in the mens triple jump and PNG will have three men contesting the long jump, including Roland Hure who won Gold in 2017, Richard, and Eldan Toti.
Multi eventers Edna Boafob and Karo Iga have both shown good form since going to the Gold Coast at the end of april for a period of training, with Boafob showing good progress in the 100m hurdles and in the long jump.
These events combined with her strengths in the 200m and 800m should see her post a much better score in what will be her first heptathlon since her debut in this event at the 2019 Games. Iga is expected to be very competitive in the mens Octathlon after showing good form in a range of events recently. He ran an outstanding 400m of 48.68 seconds at the Oceania Championships on Tuesday this week.
President Tony Green thanked sponsors PNGAIR , Kumul Consolidated Holdings , the National Sports Institute, Prima Smallgoods for their support in preparing a very strong team for the Games. He expressed confidence that the team will improve on its gold medal totals from Vanuatu 2017 and Samoa 2019 and expressed a special word of thanks to PNG Sports Foundation CEO Albert Veratau for his support to the athletes who have been camped in Port Moresby.
He added that the preparing for these Games has been extremely challenging for the Sports and thanked Team Managers Kylie Martins and Sharon Atuai for all their hard work. Everyone is keeping their fingers crossed that all of the team members make it safely through the minefield of covid related travel requirements at this time and reach Saipan smoothly.