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1963 SPG hero home on a holiday

Kameli Rakoko
Sunday, April 20, 2014

HE still has the springy steps of the day when he first stepped up the dais to receive his first gold medal for winning the 400 metres hurdles for Fiji.

The same glint in the eye resulting from a healthy lifestyle. So was the gleam showing his full set of dentures. He was still a schoolboy then. The day was as vivid yesterday as it was fifty years ago when he became the 1963 South Pacific Games champion.

He may have lost some of the vims and whims of youth but Osea Malamala of Voua, Nadroga is a fitness fanatic and has kept a perfect lifestyle that has never seen him sick in his teaching career from 1966 to 2010.

Here for a prolonged holiday from where he resides in Worcester in England Malamala, apart from his athletic prowess, played some part in rugby development in Fiji.

Spending a year at the University of Wales in Cardiff 1967 to 1968 then 1972 to 1974 with schoolmates such as former Wales and British Lions skipper Gareth Edwards and JPR Williams of the same repute, Malamala came back home with bagful of knowledge that perhaps helped to shape rugby in Fiji as what it is now. Their teacher was the great Lynn Davies, the Welshman who won a gold medal in the 1964 Olympic Games in the long jump.The university was the top Physical Education centre of learning in Wales and the region.

A Wales coaching manual he gave former national coach and teaching mate at Nasinu Teachers College Inoke Tabualevu. The South African coaching manual he gave his (brother-in-law), the late Meli Kurisaru.

He introduced touch rugby to his Gaunavou rugby club in Suva and advised Brian Wightman of how sevens rugby suited the Fijians "because it has a lot of running".

Watching our performance in the HSBC Sevens Series Malamala has a feeling of great pride because he has seen the fruition of his dream.

The Cardiff Sevens was and still is a great sporting event in Wales and he was part of it during his time there.

He brought touch rugby for his Gaunavou club as it was a good skill builder.

"It was used for warm-up sessions before training because it develops space-awareness, speed and passing and changing direction."

He also introduced mini rugby at Nabua.

However, Malamala first came into prominence at Ratu Kadavulevu School in 1956 as a Class Six student winning the national schools cross-country event in the open grade, beating competitors in all ages up to secondary school.

He spent his intermediate years from 1956 to 1958 at RKS and moved for his secondary education to Queen Victoria School.

"I was in my final year at QVS when I won my gold medal in 1963."

From 1957 he became a regular competitor in the Easter Athletics Championships.

He attended Nasinu Teachers College in 1964 and 1965 and broke the 2 minutes barrier in the 800 metres and the 50 seconds in the 400 metres.

He won bronze in the 800 in the Noumea SPG and a gold in the 4x400 metres relay with Amani Racule and Laisiasa Waqa the fourth member he could not recall.

He won a silver in the 800 in 1967 SPG in PNG with gold going to Saimoni Tamani and bronze to Peceli Tikomainakauvadra.

In 1971 in Tahiti he was injured in the final.

In 1972 he went with Samu Yavala and Usaia Sotutu to the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.

Traditionally, Voua is a warrior tribe being the warriors for the Kalevu, Paramount chief of Nadroga and it was not surprising that two gold medals of 1963 came from that one small village. The other was by Merewai Turukawa in the shot putt.

One year later another Voua villager Aporosa Robe played for Fiji and went on to create fame in Wales in 1964.

At an early age Malamala got hold of a book by legendary Olympian gold medalist Peter Snell where he said he ran 100 miles a week to build his stamina.

Malamala did likewise and blames the poor performance of modern sport on the emphasis of other aspects of fitness like skills, speed and strength especially in the off-season.

"I trained 100 miles a week, running to Nausori and back to Nasinu daily," he said.

"During my peak, with that conditioning I break my own record in the morning with the 400 and break another personal record in the afternoon," he added.

Quick recovery from injury or during strenuous sessions of play depends on how much stamina you have. It also prevents injury.

For the past couple of years he has been helping out the Gloucester under-20 team of the Gloucester Rugby Club.

He is helping out with local rugby and offering advice to schools such as Adi Cakobau School in their preparation for the Coca-Cola Games.

Local sports have become professional but he hopes it does not take away that community spirit of offering free service to help fellow men.

It is a quickly vanishing commodity in modern sports and life generally, Malamala believes.

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