Over 100 Australian track and field athletes will join 16 other nations from tomorrow competing at the 2018 Oceania Melanesian Regional Championships in Port Vila, Vanuatu. The competition includes events in open and under-18s, with the younger events taking on extra significance as a trial for the Youth Olympic Games to be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina in October 2018.
The Australian team will enjoy a rich experience competing alongside athletes from the diverse cultures across the nations of Oceania. Competing countries are: Nauru, Kiribati, Wallis & Futuna, Tuvalu, Tonga, New Zealand, PNG Solomon Islands, Samoa, Norfolk Island, New Caledonia, Fiji, Cook Islands and American Samoa.
The championships are not just about competition, but an opportunity for athletes, officials and coaches in the region to meet, develop and be inspired. There is a meet manager training course which is the computer program used to manage entries and results at all competitions. There is also a cultural youth activity and an elite athletes panel to motivate the athletes.
A dedicated volunteer group of Australian officials will travel to Port Vila to officiate at the meet and help support and mentor Island officials where needed. Trish Kinane (QLD), John Morris (NSW), Barry Pecar (NSW), Peter Sinfield (QLD) and Ron Richter (NSW) are regulars. One Australian official who supported Oceania competitions for decades, and was recognised with life membership by the region, was Geoffrey Martin, who sadly passed away last month in Sydney. He will be missed but remembered fondly at these championships.
When competition gets under way at 1.00pm (noon AEST) on Wednesday May 9, we will see some of Australia’s finest emerging talent put their Youth Olympic Games aspirations on the line in the under-18 events. Although only 16, Keely Small (ACT) is already the fastest junior 800m athlete in Australian history. She was selected to compete at the Commonwealth Games and in her heat, she smashed the Australian under-20 and 18 records with a stunning time of 2:00.81.
Oscar Miers (QLD), the son of former Australian sprinter Monique Miers (nee Dunstan), will compete in the high jump where this season he has been in terrific form clearing a best of 2.14m to take the Australian under-18 title. Monique, who competed at the Commonwealth Games and world championships, also ran for Oceania at the 1994 World Cup.
Victorian discus thrower Declan Carman, who dominated the event last summer, has nailed four Youth Olympics Games qualifiers and won the national under-18 title by over three metres. On the track, NSW pair Keegan Bell (400m) and Luke Young (1500m and 300m) have similar records as national champions and achieved multiple qualifiers.
Lyvante’e Su’emai (QLD) by-passed potential selection in the Australian team for the World U20 Championships to seek Youth Olympic Games qualification. With the Australian under-18 title and 11 qualifiers in the bag she will try to sure up selection for Buenos Aires, this week in Port Vila. Australia’s strong women’s 100m hurdles tradition looks safe in the hands of Perth’s Sophie White who broke one of Sally Pearson’s meet records at the Australian junior championships in March. White clocked 13.14 (76cm hurdles) to press her claims for YOG selection.
Leading Australians amongst the open events include rising NSW sprint sensation Anas Abu-Ganaba who ran a breakthrough 100m time of 10.28 to win his state title. Commonwealth Games long jump qualifier Liam Adcock (QLD) competes in his specialty, while Rio Paralympian Tamsyn Colley (NSW) will appear in the 100m and 200m.
Live results from the three-day competition, which run from 9th to 11th May, can be viewed on the Oceania Athletics website.
David Tarbotton for Athletics Australia
Image: Queensland discus thrower Lyvante’e Su’emai (image courtesy David Tarbotton)