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30-year record stands

Lice Movono
Thursday, April 20, 2017

PRACTISING for months by jumping on to a pile of rubber from a footwear factory, Seinimili Toloi became the first-ever champion of the sub-junior girls high jump event when it was introduced to the Fiji Secondary Schools National Athletics Championship in 1982.

In fact, the former Adi Cakobau School student won every girls grade in the high jump and left records in each.

She is in rare company, one of only two record holders in both divisions of the Fiji finals to still have records standing 30 years later.

"When I was first told to take part in the event, I was very curious because growing up you only ever hear about running but that year, they were letting sub-junior girls jump for the very first time," Toloi said.

"I was so determined to be the first person to win it for the school. My coach Lusi Ratuvuki believed in me and trained me all the way."

At the time, no ACS girl had ever jumped so the school did not even have high jump equipment so in came rubber cuttings, the off cuts of shoes made at a local factory.

"There would always be some girls there to help me train. Sometimes when I would run up to jump, my coach would know I might land somewhere further so they would move the rubber so I would land in the right place," Toloi said.

"Sometimes they would end up massaging me right there on the grass if I landed on the wrong place. Sometimes I would land on the jump stick and break that too. So I would run up to the Uluiqalau hills (which cradle the Sawani school) to find the straightest most strongest branch to use as my bar."

In the end, her coach's faith in her abilities and her determination paid off because Toloi went on to set records, the second last of which was only broken a few years back by her cousin from a Savusavu school.

"I felt happy because I knew I had achieved something, to be the first person to stamp their mark on that first event, firstly for my school and also for myself," Toloi said.

Toloi's intermediate girls high jump record of 1.62 metres set in 1985 remains standing and like she has done almost every year of the games, the Macuata woman will once again go to the games with the hope of witnessing another young girl jump higher.

"After I left school, I made sure that every games I was there, firstly to watch my school win the games but also foremost to listen and to hear whoever is the victorious athlete who has broken my record," Toloi said.

And some years, she was able to witness another young woman, never a student from ACS.

In fact the student who broke her Junior grade record was a cousin from St Bedes College whom she coached.

In 2014, she coached her son Immanuel Madigibuli to jump 1.68m at the primary schools Chow Games to set the games only record, smashing a record as old as the games itself.

He eventually won the Best Male Athlete award.

"Every year I go to the games and watch the ACS girls jump and my heart goes out to them. These past few weeks I have followed them to their training sessions hoping it will be my former school who breaks my records," said Toloi.

Toloi attributes her success to ACS and its staff, particularly her coach who pushed her to excel.

However, she wishes the Coca Cola Games had more parental involvement.

The now self-employed business woman said her parents were the wind beneath her wings in that they made sure they attended training sessions, watched her compete and it gave her extra strength.

"To this year's athletes, whichever school you are from, I encourage you to work hard, push harder but most important is you must have faith in yourself. Know that you can do it."

"If I could set my mind to achieve like no one had before me, you can do the same," said Toloi.

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