THE IGNORED STRUGGLE

…….. Federation Let Down Para Athletes in Fiji

BY ELTON LONARATHA JNR

NATIONAL para athletes who recently competed at the Oceania Athletics Championship in Fiji have expressed frustration over the lack of support from the federation, particularly concerning allowances. The team comprised Nipson Ologa (Track Events), Breeze Pita (Seated Throws), Rose Lydia (Seated Throws), and Cosmol Maefolia (Track and Throws), and was accompanied by Para Athletics Team Manager Danny Vabo.

The athletes felt demotivated by the federation’s failure to provide allowances, emphasizing that they deserve fair treatment. The perceived lack of care and support from the federation significantly affected their performance at regional and international events.

National female sprinter Jovita Ambrose Arunia, who also competed in the Championship, revealed that she had to step in to assist the para-athletes due to unreliable coaching. “Team Para delivered a great performance in the Championship despite the lack of a coach to encourage and assist them in their warm-up before competitions. This is one of the major roles that the coaches failed to fulfill, causing disappointment among the para-athletes,” Arunia stated.

Arunia also highlighted the para-athletes’ dissatisfaction with the federation regarding allowances. Solomon Islands Paralympic Committee (SINPC) President Nihal Seneviratne explained to SunSPORTS that while they covered the trip’s airfares, accommodation, food, and internal transport, the lack of qualified coaches affected the athletes’ results.

“They are traveling under Athletics Solomon’s, and one of the contributing factors to their poor results at the Championship is the absence of a qualified coach with a World Athletics Level 2 License. The same issue applies to para-athletes. Anyone can coach, but without proper qualifications, it’s not effective,” Seneviratne said. “Training national para-athletes without a Level 2 coaching license is illegal.”

Seneviratne further noted that even the staff at the Solomon Islands National Institute of Sports (SINIS) High Performance (HP) Center are not qualified to train the para-athletes.

Despite these challenges, the team returned with commendable results, securing two bronze medals and one silver medal. Ross Lydia earned a Bronze in the women’s seated shot put and a Silver in the Javelin, while Peter Breeze won a Bronze in the men’s seated shot put.

The Oceania Athletics Championship 2024 was held from June 1st to 8th at HFC Stadium in Suva, Fiji. Despite the hurdles faced, the para-athletes demonstrated resilience and determination, highlighting the need for better support and resources from their federation to achieve their full potential in future competitions.

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