The athletics competition at Tokyo 2020 was super exciting, with Oceania making their presence felt. With Area and National Records, personal and season bests, and so many breakthrough performances, we certainly had plenty to cheer for.
In the preliminary rounds of the 100m we saw many of our Universality athletes take to the track. With multiple personal and season bests our athletes all did their countries proud. Special mention to Karalo Maibuca (Tuvalu) on his new National Record, and Rohan Browning (Australia), who lived up to the hype and shown that he belongs on the world stage, becoming the second fastest Oceania athlete in history with his heat run of 10.01, where he took many notable scalps. The experience of racing at this level will catapult him into the future and we are excited to watch our current fastest man.
We have also enjoyed watching Riley Day (Australia) develop from an outstanding junior athlete to the senior ranks. Slashing your personal best in the semi-finals of an Olympic Games is impressive and Riley has proven she is world class. Liz Clay (Australia) also added to the world class ranks with a PB to narrowly miss the final in the women’s 110m hurdles.
Dame Valerie Adams (New Zealand) did it again with bronze in the women’s shot put. The mother of two has shown that with a great team you can achieve amazing things. She has now medaled in four consecutive Olympic Games and Oceania Athletics could not be prouder of her. Her training partner, Tomas Walsh (New Zealand), matched the achievement with his bronze in the men’s shot put and a season best throw of 22.47. The future in Oceania looks bright with Maddison-Lee Wesche (New Zealand) throwing a personal best in the women’s final to finish in sixth place, and teammate Jacko Gill (New Zealand) finishing in ninth in the men’s final.
After having thrown a truly international class National Record leading towards Tokyo, Samoa’s Alex Rose expected big things from himself. Unfortunately, he was unable put together a good throw in the qualifications and he missed the final. Australian Matt Denny was on fire with a personal best in the final of 67.02, only 5 cm off the bronze medal. It will be exciting to watch both men leading towards the Commonwealth Games and World Championships next year. With three Australian women in the final of the javelin, hopes were high. World Champion, Kelsey Lee Barber, saved her best till last, taking the bronze medal, with Kathryn Mitchell sixth and Mackenzie Little eighth.
Brooke Stratton (Australia) has now finished an amazing seventh in the women’s long jump final in two Olympic campaigns. Rellie Kaputin (PNG) jumped close to her best in the long jump qualifying, and finished a respectable 19th overall. Rellie, along with Alex Rose, become the fourth and fifth Pacific Islanders respectively to finish in the top 20 in athletics at the Olympic Games. They join Leslie Copeland (12th), Lisa Misipeka (14th ) and Henry Smith (17th and 18th ).
The Cook Islands were right behind Alex Beddoes, and he repaid the support with a new national record and the best placing by a Cook Islander at the Olympics in the 800m heats. His coach, Justin Rinaldi, has been busy for these Games, as he is also the coach of Peter Bol. The Aussie has reset the Area Record twice at the Games and had Australia glued to the TV for his exciting fourth place run in the final. Linden Hall and Jess Hull (both Australia) finished sixth and 11th respectively in the women’s 1500m Final. Jess broke the Area Record in the semi and Lynden set a new personal best in the final. In the Men’s 1500m, Australia had Stewart McSweyn and Oli Hoare who finished seventh and 11th respectively.
The Aussies had many glued to the TV during the women’s high fump final. The Area Record holder, Nicola McDermott, clinched the silver medal in a nail biter, going head to head with the three-time World Champion, resetting the Area Record in the process with a jump of 2.02. Eleanor Patterson, who has come back from injury, took fifth place with 1.96 in an equal season best. Oceania also had two men in the high jump final, with Brandon Starc (Australia) placing fifth and Hamish Kerr (New Zealand) 10th.
Sharon Firisua (Solomon Islands) has done her country proud and paved the way for other Pacific female athletes to step out of their comfort zones. To finish the Marathon in a National Record time – the only National Record in the Marathon events – when so many others had to withdraw, was truly inspiring.
There is little doubt that the men’s decathlon brought up every emotion possible with two of Australia’s finest decathletes battling out for the medals when the event commenced. However, after sustaining an injury at the pre-Games training camp in Cairns, the ten events in two days took its toll on Cedric Dubler and with a disappointing pole vault, Cedric’s main focus was on supporting his training partner, Ash Moloney, to a medal-winning performance. Ash had long been regarded by his coach, Eric Brown, as a medal chance, so to see him in the silver position after nine events was no surprise to many. All that stood between Ash and a medal was 1500 metres. With no medal prospect for Dubler he made it his duty to get Ash onto the dais. No one will ever forget the vision of Cedric screaming at Ash in that last 400 metres. Did it make a difference? Yes – just look at the medals! It was an Australian and Oceania record, and a PB in the 1500m for Moloney to take out the bronze medal. The medal may have gone to Ash Moloney but the ‘Most Valuable Player’ award surely goes to Cedric Dubler, who exemplified sportsmanship and mateship at its very best.