Bridging the gap for children’s success

Suva Athletics team celebrate after winning the girls division at the 2018 Western and Central Chow Games yesterday. Picture: SOPHIE RALULU

“PREPARATION is the key to success, said Alexander Graham Bell (late), the Scottish-born scientist, inventor, engineer, and innovator who was among those who invented the first telephones.

A Fijian who co-founded what is known today as the Fiji Primary Schools Athletics Association, Henry Elder Sr has the same belief as those who invented our telephones.

Elder Sr, the principal of The Learning Centre in Suva said good preparation produced sound sports victories.

Three coaches in the 2018 FMF Chow Games echoed his sentiment.

They came from different backgrounds and locations, but felt the same elation after some of their athletes won medals at the ANZ Stadium in Suva.

Lautoka, for the first time, won the boys title. Domasiaono Kalou of Lovoni, Ovalau, a Lautoka teacher and president of the Lautoka Zone, said ample preparation on the newly built Churchill Park synthetic tracks contributed to their victory.

“It was hard to beat Suva, but we thank Lautoka City Council and its CEO for allowing us to train on the tracks. This helped us win. We won because we prepared very well,” he said.

Lautoka was competitive in almost all departments, especially on the tracks.

The maroons returned home with 10 gold medals, 7 silver, 9 bronze for a total 26 medals. Suva had 9 gold, 8 silver, 7 bronze for 32 medals.

In the girls division Suva Athletics won with 10 gold, nine silver, seven bronze for 26 medals while second place Lautoka scooped nine gold, nine silver and eight bronze medals.

“To win is a proud moment for teachers. We sacrifice after school hours to train the students.

We reach home most times 7pm daily after preparing children, and had meetings to plan.

We are not paid, but it is about the passion in building these children to be champions. Our payment is when we see these children win and later represent other schools in the Coca-Cola Games.

So, it is the hard work during preparation that is important even though we do not have the resources.”

The two-day event had visiting debutantes Wallis and Futuna, an overseas community of France.

The islanders surprisingly won the under-14 boys division.

They set the lone record of the event after breaking the 21-year-old shot put record set in 1997 by Jonatani Debeu of Lautoka who threw 15.53 metres. WF’s Liufau Mikaele threw 16.51m for the record and the gold medal while Motuku Fololiaono, who won silver, threw 16.48m.

Their coach Yaan Likuvalu said they had better facilities than Fiji.

“We prepared well, but we were surprised that Fijians are small, faster and very athletic.

“They can become champions if they are prepared well, but government and sporting organisations should work together to provide good facilities and resources,” he said.

Ba coach Meli Tuibevu, a teacher of Naloto Distroct School in the interior of Ba, was at times emotional during the games.

He shared tears of victory when some of his athletes won medals. It included Sainimili Nadule who won the U11 girls softball gold medal. Nadule and members of her school team train as early as 5am daily, under hot sun during lunch break from school, and in the afternoon.

They run on gravel roads, some barefooted. Some are children of farmers and villagers.

“We do not have the right resources, but the children were eager to come and compete in Suva,” Tuibevu said.

“This could be a lifetime chance for some of them because they live in remote rural areas. Some could not afford proper training shoes and expensive track shoes. Some lost hope when they saw other students with fancy and expensive outfits.

“But we came well prepared using what we had at home, and to win is a reward to the hard work these children do under the unfortunate environment they live in.”

As the dust had settled at the ANZ Stadium after the weekend, Hari Punja, the chairman of FMF Foods Ltd, the sponsors said: Chow Games is an avenue that brings together the talents of many young athletes who grow to represent the country in the sport they choose.”

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