Back to Beijing

Monday, 8 September 2008

 

In a spectacular opening ceremony on Saturday night, the Beijing Paralympic Games started, just where the Olympic Games left off. Stunning precision, superbly synchronised performers, heaps of fire-works and an emotion-charged lighting of the cauldron.

In the lengthy Parade of Nations, entering the stadium by Chinese alphabetical order, I managed to see five of our island nations enter to the applause of the 90,000-crowd that packed the Birds' Nest.

Vanuatu was the first of ours to enter, and while there were familiar faces (did I see Mary-Estelle), I do not think that they have a track and field athlete in their team. The other four nations did, and they were all flag-bearers.

Papua New Guinea had Francis Kompaon carrying the flag, and he looked as if he could barely contain his excitement. It was wonderful to see Dr Ma stop to pay his respects to the Chinese leadership as the team passed the dais. Dr Ma, a long time resident of PNG and a Chinese national, has contributed much to the medical profession, and in particular sports-medicine, in the country.

Tonga had Mounga Okusitino as their flag-bearer. He will be participating in the 100m for the T37 category. The familiar face of Paula Havea, in dignified formal Tongan dress, was good to see. I like the Parade of Nations to see how many people from our sport I can recognise.

Samoa had their F46 category Long Jumper, Mose Faatamala carrying their flag.

Finally Fiji, the only island nation to actually get a mention in the ABC commentary, had their only competitor, vision-impaired sprinter, Ranjesh Prakash, resplendent in Fiji-dress proudly walk down the straight in the parade.

(A bit of an editorial comment here. The ABC has a Pacific-wide audience, and it was extremely disappointing to have them ignore nearly all of the Pacific Island teams. I certainly expected more from my ABC!!)

And so to the Athletics Competition.

First in action was PNG's Francis Kompaon in the 200m in the T46 category. He finished 4th in his heat in the time of 23.30 seconds. He beat-home athletes from France, China and Sri Lanka. With 8 advancing to the final Francis finished 10th fastest in a field of 21. (His category of T46 indicates an athlete in a track event who is a "single above or below elbow amputee").

Fiji's Ranjesh Prakash was in the 100m in the T12 category. (This category is for athletes who are legally blind. This means that they can see objects at 2m that those with normal vision could see at 60m).

With only the first in each heat automatically qualifying for the final, Ranjesh finished 4th in his 100m in a time of 12.38 seconds - a season's best.

The final island athlete to compete today was Joyleen Jeffrey from PNG. Like Ranjesh she is in the T12 category. Sadly she was disqualified in her heat of the 100m and had no chance to progress any further.

The other island action in the days' ahead -

10th September - Moses Faatamala (SAM) in the Long Jump F46
12th September - Mounga Okusitino (TGA) in the 100m T37
14th September - Francis Kompaon (PNG) in the 100m T46.

The details of the other Oceania athletes can be found at the Athletics Australia website (http://www.athletics.com.au/) and from the New Zealand Paralympic website (http://www.paralympics.org.nz/).

The Armchair Observer
Bob Snow