Siosi moves up a gear at Rio Olympics

Deafening roars could be heard from the morning athletics crowd at the Olympic Stadium before the Men’s 5000m. Rosefelo Siosi of the Solomon Islands first time Olympian was ready to take on the race.

Despite his home being situated in an ocean which takes up 20% of the world’s surface area, Pacific island athletes are still relatively unknown on the Olympic stage. That’s slowly changing. Fiji Rugby Sevens claimed a first gold medal for the region earlier in the week and Kiribati’s Commonwealth Champion, David Katoatau is helping to put Pacific weightlifting on the map. Even Rosefelo is accustomed to a little of the spotlight, having been interviewed by the BBC at the last Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

As in Glasgow, he followed the rest of the field home in Heat 1 of the 5000m. As in Glasgow, he was cheered to the hilt by a crowd willing him home. As in Glasgow, he broke into an infectious smile as he finished the twelve and a half laps. However, this time he left with more than the momentous cheers ringing in his ears.

He left with a new PB (personal best) of 15 minutes 47.76 seconds. Having shaved off a whopping 1 minutes 7 seconds of his previous high mark. Needless, to say he was still smiling on reaching the Mixed Zone;

“I am so happy to beat my PB. I think what has made the difference this year is that I have worked harder than ever before. So, I expected a PB in these Games.”

That hard work has taken place at Glenhuntly Athletic Club in Melbourne, Australia. If Rosefelo looks closely he will see he is good company. None other than the late Olympian Ron Clarke AO, MBE was a member of the same club. Trevor Vincent is the club’s coach who has been guiding the Solomon Island runner to these Games and Rosefelo is quick to acknowledge the difference that he and others at the club have made.

The Chef De Mission for the Solomon Islands team, Ronald Talasasa also recognizes the strength of character of his athlete;

“He’s never thwarted for one bit, by any circumstance or the presence of champions, for he is a champion himself. He left the Athletes’ Village this morning to the tune of ‘Walk in the strength of the Lord;’ I could see in him a character as formidable as the rocks laying bare on the mountains of the Solomon Islands.”

It was an apt description of Rosefelo’s demeanour. For most inexperienced athletes, the thought of lining up alongside Farah and the world’s best can be a little daunting. This middle distance runner was no different before the race;

“I came over before the start and I saw Mo Farah and I thought oh my! I’m going to race with Mo Farah. I’ve watched him win so many races on TV and I had tears of joy in my eyes.”

Nevertheless, there was a job to do and he went on to explain how he focused during the race despite the excitement.

“I just talk to myself and try and maintain the pace that I started with until the end. I dropped a little during the middle kilometres but picked it up again in the last 800m. I was also grateful for the crowd continuing to cheer for me, even though I was the last to finish.”

The attention he’s receiving both on and off the track is only improving this 19 year old’s confidence. He’s inspired to go on and create a few records of his own, including, “ Solomons’ national records and Pacific best times.”

“It would be good to grab both (national and Pacific) by the end of this year. For now, I’m just happy with my PB and run today and determined to keep improving my running for the Solomon Islands.”

By Glyn McGuire of The Reporters’ Academy


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