Suva (Fiji Times) – WITH Fiji holding a regional athletics competition after a lapse of 13 years, the Melanesian Athletics Championship proved to be a good platform for young athletes.
While the highlight of the competition mostly centred around three athletes Toea Wisil, Leslie Copeland and Banuve Tabakaucoro, who were all vying for Olympic qualification, the competition included much more involvement from youths who while still in school, showed a great interest in national representation.
Regional Games statistician Bob Snow said with the event serving as a qualifier to the Rio Olympics, the competition was much more prominent.
“The Melanesian Athletics Championship has been around for quite a long time in many different forms. Sometimes they were held in conjunction with other events and that way you would get. Because this one came just before the Olympics it gave it extra status and importance,” he said.
He added that with big stars around the Pacific fighting for qualification, the championship served as the perfect development for those that debuted at the event.
“We had the Toea, Banuve and the Leslie show to get everyone excited but deleting the big stars, we had a huge number of young people come forward and consolidate their position as players of the future and there were some who in a sense came to break the waters and that is really important.
“I thought it was a wonderful opportunity and a huge participation from the participating countries,”he said.
Athletics Fiji chief development officer Joseph Rodan Jr said they considered the event a success.
“We were happy with the turnout because we had the biggest participation numbers from the country.
“We had a total of 230 athletes in both the open and U18 grade and both out of all of them 205 were from the Coca-Cola Games.
“We have done well in terms of the new national record set and not only that we have had a few personal best performances so it’s been a success,” he said.
Australia proved dominant in the Melanesian Athletics Championship winning first place with a total of 76 medals.
The winners had participated in most of the events both in the development and open grade.
The 76 medals comprised of 36 gold, 26 silver and 14 bronze medals.
The Fiji A grade team placed second with 10 gold, 15 silver and 14 bronze.
Papua New Guinea placed third with eight gold, eight silver and 6 bronze.