THE NATIONAL TRACK & FIELD ATHLETICS SQUAD
The National Track and Field Athletics squad is in good shape with six months to go to the Pacific Games and Athletics PNG is on track to improve on its best ever haul of 15 gold in Noumea 2011. Athletics PNG President Tony Green said this was an achievable target and one which Athletics has been working towards over the last three years. “It is not going to be easy because we know other teams are preparing seriously too but we are just focusing on developing a strong all round team whilst at the same time ensuring that our elite athletes continue to receive the support they need”
APNG now has a training squad of 85 athletes (50 male and 35 female). The squad was reviewed after the PNG Games with some promising newcomers such as Timothy Maggie (Javelin) ; Martin Orovo (1500m) ; and Rama Kumilgo (Steeplechase) being added. Green predicted that the final team would be between 65 and 70 athletes.
PNG has dominated the womens sprints hurdles and relays in recent Pacific Games with Toea Wisil, Betty Burua and Sharon Kwarula leading the way; and with Donna Koniel and rising star Miriam Peni also showing good form in 2014 , the PNG girls will be expected to retain their #1 ranking. The middle and long distance group now has much more depth than four years ago and despite the retirement of Salome Dell PNG can expect several minor medals at least. Whether they can win gold will depend on whether the competition for places in the team and the programme in place for the girls will result in them reaching a high enough standard to head off the challenge of French Polynesia and New Caledonia.There are also some Pacific Island girls in the USA running good times in events from 1500m to 5000m include Astrid Montuclard (FP) and Christina Wicker of Palau
The womens jumps and heptathlon group is now much stronger than it has been for a long time and the home nation seems certain to be able to select three athletes in each event. Nellie Leslie and Delilah Kami clearly have the potential to matchRellieKaputin in the high jump but will need blocks of training in Australia where all the necessary equipment and coaching is available. PNG is also looking good in the triple jump with RellieKaputin and Betty Burua both capable of breaking Angela Way’s National Record. There are signs that new Caledonia’s dominance of the throws may be on the decline and Sharon Toako tops the Pacific Island rankings in 2014 in the Javelin. However things are often very different in a Pacific Games year when more athletes come into the picture.
The mens 400m and 400m hurdles remain PNG’s strongest two events which augers well for the 4* 400m relay as well. Competition for the three available places in the mens 400m will be fierce with National record holder Nelson Stone determined to retain his Pacific Games title on home soil and a host of younger athletes out to prove themselves including Theo Piniau , KaminielMatlaun , John Rivan and Kevin Kapmatana. Fiji’s BanuveTabacaucoro will be the strong favourite for the 100m and 200m and Fiji as always will be strong in the mens relays. However its hard to look past the PNG boys for the 4*400 and the national record set at the 1991 Games may well fall this year.
As with the women, PNG now has a much larger menssquad of middle and long distance runners than for many years and it is hoped that a good programme over the next six months combined with competition for places in the team will see a marked improvement in their times. Green predicted that the mens 1500m national record will fall this year as George Yamak ,AndipasGeorasi , Veherney Babob , Skene Kiage , Simbai Kaspar and newcomer Martin Orovo all push for place in the team. The distance squad is currently at NSI preparing for competitions in Australia next month.PNG is still very weak in the mens horizontal jumps but appears set to be very competitive in the high jump and will be hopeful of a medal in the decathlon and the pole vault. Hopes in the mens throws will rest on Debono Paraka (Discus and Shot) , Albert Karo (Shot) and Timothy Maggie (Javelin). Details of the athletes schedules for this year will be released when they have been agreed with the PNG Olympic Committee, hopefully sometime next week. The programme will include large teams attending the Queensland Championships (march 5 to 8 in Brisbane) and the Oceania Championships in Cairns (May 8 to 10).