Our first Pole Vaulter ? Maybe !
COORDINATION and TIMING !
From this unorganised, informal group of young lads working and playing on the beach in Tarawa may come the first-ever pole vaulter to represent Kiribati in international competition. Their potential is enormous, because they already have excellent co-ordination, timing, and spatial awareness - all vital for gymnastics but also for the technically difficult event of pole vault ! They have only been using the beach in evenings for about a month, but already their level of skill, even among the youngest, is high. The origin of their movements must be from film, e.g. of Kung-fu exponents, imported e.g. from Japan and Korea by I-Kiribati seamen. They imitate accurately what they see, then copy each other. A little advice and guidance has also been given !
As has happened in other sports in Kiribati, an encouraging sign is when the older, better gymnasts give time to support and assist and model for the younger, less able. Again some guidance has been given about the safest ways to do this. The very soft coral sand which makes up this beach is a very forgiving landing area but does not make a firm surface for take-offs. Thus they have been advised to use the firmer sand nearer the tide-line. This gives them more height and more time in the air. In addition there are odd rocks and tree trunks which, for now, act as vaulting boxes and higher take-off areas. Even the sea-wall, at about 1.30m. above the sand, is used by young and older for back somersault. A more adventurous section of the group recently arranged some transport to the bridge on the main causeway which spans the Boat Channel to the outside of the reef. This has deep water all the time. Then they co-operated in doing GROUP somersaults from the bridge, about 3m. to the water !
WHAT NEXT ?
Steering one or more towards pole vault (probably on the same beach) is the main idea. Then we have the possibility of entering our first Decathlon !
However I have no wish to try to organise them at the moment, thinking that this will detract from the voluntary, informal nature of their activity. Taking and distributing photos has helped ! Suggesting that they could use their new skills for entertaining guests at parties in their maneaba (meeting-house) is another extension of their evening sessions.
I am thinking about rewarding their efforts with a Certification system (useful for the CV), and maybe getting some equipment to work indoors. Storage will be a problem. About eight years ago I had a similar group working on the beach and in a hall. They reached a stage of competence sufficient to put on two displays for the school staff ! I even considered entering a few for the Pacific School Games ! This group has similar potential, already able to put together impressive skill sequences. We are lucky that the Olympics is this year. I plan to get Beijing Gymnastics sessions recorded so that the group can get a better idea of what is needed for a competition.
THE SKY IS THE LIMIT ?
That is probably an exaggeration, considering we have no money, no base, and no equipment. However they are young and time can work miracles ! Also there will be an automatic and consequential carry-over of their skills into almost any other sporting activity. So what they are doing has an intrinsic value.