Oceania Athletics Association update

Oceania Athletics Coaches Association (OACA)

The Oceania Athletics Coaches Association (OACA) was established by and reports to the Oceania Athletics Association (OAA) Development Commission in accordance with Article 14 of the Oceania Athletics Association (OAA) Constitution. The OAA Development Commission called for expressions of interest, sought approval from the OAA Council and can now confirm the appointment of a diverse range of members.

These members represent the three regions of Oceania with different experience levels and background.  Jerry Brunt, member of the OAA Development Commission, OAA Council and President of Athletics Samoa, has been appointed as Chair of OACA. His background as a lawyer and respected sports administrator in Samoa will ensure he provides strong governance to the association. Jerry is joined by the following highly regarded coaches Nik Hagicostas (Australia), Kirsten Hellier (New Zealand), Desmond Mandell (Guam), Leanne Hines-Smith (Australia), Lolomanaia Tuifua (Tonga) and Ron Snyder (Northern Marianas).

The members who will advocate on behalf of all coaches within Oceania and ensure there is growth and development of Coaches within the Oceania Area, especially addressing social issues such as health, wellbeing, equality, and social inclusion.

Coaches from many of our federations are volunteers and this means that it is important for the Area to provide access to coach development for all. Mentoring, wellbeing, and clear pathways for our coaches is extremely important, this will lead to will lead to improved performances.

We will encourage coaches to work together for the benefit of our athletes and sport. The Oceania Athletics Association is supporting OACA in their mandate to improve the climate for coaches in the Oceania Area.


Oceania Athletics Association Congress

During the recent OAA Congress, the 20 Member Federations unanimously elected Derek Mandell (Guam) to be appointed to the Oceania Athletics Council for the 2019 to 2023 period.

“It is a great honour and privilege to be given an opportunity to serve on the Oceania Athletics Association Council, and I am sincerely thankful for the votes and confidence my colleagues have placed in me,” Mandell said.  “Athletics has been a part of my life since I was a child, and I have seen the sport from different perspectives as both athlete and administrator. I look forward to the new role and helping advance the sport of athletics in the Oceania region.”

Derek, a two-time Olympian, current Guam Track and Field President, and part of a ‘Mandell’ legacy of athletics, offers a wealth of knowledge, enthusiasm and willingness to learn from existing council members. His broad scope of skills also includes co-owning a business. In 2015, alongside his brother and running partner, Derek founded Run Guam; a local athletic apparel company inspired by their island paradise home.

In late 2019, Robin Sapong (Northern Marianas) was elected as Area President, leaving a general vacancy on the Council. Derek will join current OAA Council Members; Matt Mahon (Australia), Joseph Rodan (Fiji), Titaua Juventin (French Polynesia), Trevor Spittle (New Zealand), and Tony Green (Papua New Guinea).


Oceania Athletics Association Awards

During the OAA Congress, Joseph Taitano (Guam) was awarded the prestigious Oceania Athletics Association Life Membership Award.

Fondly known as ‘Coach’ or ‘Joe’, Joseph currently serves as Vice President of Guam Track and Field Association (GTFA) and is a lifelong contributor to the sport of athletics in Guam and the Pacific. For nearly 40 years, Mr Taitano has been instrumental in growing the sport of athletics and producing top-level athletes, coaches, and officials.

Joe Taitano is an educator by profession and has served in many roles in the sport throughout his career. He served as Head Coach for the Guam National Athletics Team at the 1988 and 1996 Olympic Games, 1990 Micronesian Games, 1991 South Pacific Games, and the 1991 IAAF World Cross Country Championships.

As an administrator, he has been a Board Member of GTFA for more than 20 years, Vice President of the Guam National Olympic Committee for one term and served as Guam’s Delegate to the IAAF Congress six times. As an official, he has directed and facilitated numerous road races and athletics meets in Guam for over 20 years. As an athlete, he currently holds the fastest marathon run on Guam soil by a resident as well as numerous age-group records in local road race events.

Joe Taitano’s passion and dedication to athletics in our region is legendary and we are thrilled to announce Joseph Taitano as a Life Member of the Oceania Athletics Association.

OAA recognised another three members of the athletics family at the OAA Congress with the presentation of the Oceania Athletics Association, Merit Award.

Dame Valerie Adams DNZM (NZL) is a four-time World Champion, four-time World Indoor Champion, two-time Olympic Champion, three-time Commonwealth Games Champion and an Olympic silver medallist and bronze medallist.  She has a personal best throw of 21.24 metres outdoors and 20.54 meters indoors. These marks are Oceanian, Commonwealth and New Zealand national records. She also holds the World Championships record, World Indoor Championships record and Commonwealth Games record.

Dame Valerie first represented New Zealand at the 1999 IAAF World Youth Championships in Bydgozcz, Poland, at age 15.  She became the third woman to win World Championships at the youth, junior, and senior level of an athletics event.  She was the first woman to win four consecutive individual titles at the IAAF World Championships. While still a teenager, Adams was a finalist at the 2003 World Championships in athletics and the 2004 Summer Olympics.

She would go on to dominate the shot put event for the following decade, going unbeaten in competitions from her first World Cup victory in Athens until September 2014. In 2017, Adams was appointed a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her contribution to sport and athletics. Over the latter part of Adams career, she has been a representative on the World Athletics Athletes’ Commission, since 2015 and has been instrumental in setting up and being the inaugural chair of both Athletics New Zealand and Oceania Athletics’ Athletes Commission.

As a further contribution to athletics, Adams has initiated a successful coaching career, coaching her sister Lisa to a Tokyo Paralympics gold medal and Paralympic record.

Maurie Plant (AUS) had a unique contribution to regional and global athletics, almost certainly never to be replicated by a single person. His legacy to Oceania and world athletics will be felt for many years after his untimely passing in January 2020. As early as the 1980s, Maurie was keen to find competition on the world circuit for Oceania athletes, and not simply those from Australia and New Zealand, but also for those from our region’s smaller island federations.

Maurie wanted to bring global athletics to our region as often as possible, working initially with some professional promoters in the 1980s before becoming the lead promoter himself, particularly after the World Cup in Canberra in 1985 where he served as deputy mayor of the Athlete Village. He put the same knowledge to good use in establishing the domestic scene in Australia, particularly after 1993 when Sydney was awarded the 2000 Olympics and Paralympics. Maurie made sure that the right internationals were encouraged to come to the circuit – those who would provide the best competition for the rapidly growing list of emerging Oceania stars. Working closely with the Oceania RDC, he also made sure that there were spots in every meet for Oceania athletes even if their performances might not yet justify a spot. Many careers flourished from these opportunities.

Maurie worked very effectively behind the scenes to bring WAS and similar events to Oceania most notably the 1996 World Juniors, the 2001 Goodwill Games and perhaps his pride and joy the 2001 IAAF Grand Prix Final. He was instrumental in organising many pre-Games camps and lead-up competitions before the 2000 Olympics and the 2006 and 2018 Commonwealth Games. Maurie was always prepared to share his vast knowledge and experience with others, mentoring many in myriad roles including James Templeton, now one of the globe’s leading Athlete Representatives and the emerging group of meet directors in Oceania.

Anne Lord (AUS) ‘graduated’ from an impressive career as an athlete to find a real niche in administration of athletics, of which her country, Oceania Athletics and world athletics have been substantial beneficiaries. Anne was five times a national junior champion across both track and field and cross-country before moving to senior ranks and becoming national champion on two occasions; over 10km on the road and at 3000m on the track.

Anne was probably most at home, however, in cross country, representing Australia at the World Cross Country Championships four times between 1981 and 1987, complemented by a single appearance at the Women’s World Road Championships in 1991. Anne had further opportunity to influence the world of cross country upon her election in her own right to the IAAF Cross Country Committee in 2007, serving as the Oceania representative until 2019 when all IAAF committees were wound up upon the transformation to World Athletics. She was meticulous in her reporting to Oceania Athletics and always keen to consult widely within the region before Committee interactions.

Anne was always one of the more active members of the Committee, pushing for innovation and better promotion of the discipline. One of her last contributions was to successfully work for the return of the Championships to Oceania for a second time. Whilst the Bathurst edition has regrettably now been twice postponed due to the pandemic, when it is eventually staged – hopefully in February 2023 – much of its eventual success will be due to Anne’s foresight and drive. Her collaborative and harmonious approach enabled reform and progress to be made in many areas, always encouraging – in particular, other women – to step into officiating, coaching, administrative and leadership roles.

Anne received the Medal of the Order of Australia in June 2015 for her contribution to athletics at all levels as a competitor and administrator, and only this week received Life Membership of Athletics Australia.


Oceania Athletics Association – Virtual Championships

With the world, and especially the Pacific, feeling the effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic, it has meant that it has now been over two years since we have been able to gather as an Oceania Athletics family in person. However, with travel on the horizon and Federations with the ability to host athletics competitions, it’s a great time for to come together as an Area and compete against each other virtually.

The inclusive Virtual Championships will see athletes of all ages and abilities compete – albeit virtually – for medals and to be crowned Oceania Virtual Champion. With the Championships held in partnership with Oceania Masters Athletics Association, this will see champions crowned and medals awarded across multiple age groups, from under 14 to 80 + years of age.

Para athletes will also be invited to partake in the event as we look towards the Pacific Mini Games in 2022, as well as the Oceania Championships and then on to the World Championships in Kobe, Japan. With planning in the works for an Oceania Championships in the middle of 2022, the Oceania Athletics Association Virtual Championships will give athletes the opportunity to test themselves against the rest of Oceania, albeit on paper.