Toea Wisil of Papua-New Guinea celebrates her sprint double in Melbourne (Getty Images) © Copyright
Report Papeete, French Polynesia

Oceania Area Championships first day report

The most geographically and culturally diverse of the IAAF Area Associations, the most far-flung and sparsely populated, comprising of 90 per cent water and a mere 10 per cent land mass, Oceania presents its athletes, and its travelers, unique challenges.

Distances are vast, direct connections rare, so the gathering of the 400 or more athletes representing the 20 Member Federations of the Oceania Area Association competing at this year's Championships in Tahiti was inevitably not without its dramas.

Getting first hand experience of the rigors of travel to Papeete, the capital of Tahiti, which is part of French Polynesia, was IAAF Vice President Sebastian Coe.

Having organized the London 2012 Olympic Games and now attending the 2013 Oceania Area Championships on behalf of IAAF President Lamine Diack, Coe has certainly now experienced both ends of the championship spectrum.

This year's Championships also incorporate the Oceania segment of the IAAF Combined Events Challenge. The Heptathlon is being conducted on the first two days of the Championships while the Decathlon is on the last two days of the three-day meeting, which ends on Wednesday.

Australia's 20-year-old Australia competitor Elana Withnall led the Heptathlon overnight with 2599 points while other day one highlights came largely from athletes who were plying their trade a long way from home.

Samoa’s Alex Rose arrived in Papeete in distinguished company, on the same flight from Los Angeles as Coe.

The 21-year-old, who has a personal best of 59.83m, which was set just last month, won the men’s Discus with a distance of 56.05m.

Papua New Guinea's Toea Wisil trains on Australia’s Gold Coast under the supervision of Sharon Hannan, Sally Pearson’s coach.

Wisil, who won the 100m at the Australian Championships in April, took the women's 200m in 24.45 into a 1.1 metres-per-second. New Zealand’s Louise Jones pushed Wisil hard but finished second in 24.75.

Ratu Banuve Tabakaucoro made a mark for the home-based athletes, the 20-year-old from Fiji winning the men’s 200m in a championships record 21.08 despite a strong headwind.

Among the other championship records set on the first day was a 46.50 throw by 17-year-old Elimie Falelavaki, from the French territory Wallis and Futuna in the girl’s under 18 Javelin.

The Championships opening ceremony was actually held on Sunday night (2).

Following speeches by Titaua Maurin-Juventin, President of French Polynesia Athletics, OAA President Geoff Gardner and Coe, the championship was officially opened by M. Michel Ler Bouchert, Tahiti's Minister for Sport and Education.

There followed a cultural item by an outstanding Tahitian cultural group, much appreciated by the large crowd.

Towards the end of the pulsating and exciting Tahitian music and dance set, the individual dancers made for the audience and enticed them to join in. To the delight of the crowd on the Papeete waterfront, Coe and others of the official party did so.

Len Johnson for the IAAF