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RUTA MAVE: Pride and prejudice in our sporting community

Monday 1 May 2023 | Written by Ruta Tangiiau Mave | Published in Opinion


RUTA MAVE: Pride and prejudice in our sporting community
Cook Islands canoe slalom athlete Jane Nicholas. ICF/21050740

Pride and prejudice exist in our sporting community where we have little pride and too much prejudice, writes Ruta Mave.

If there is one flaw, I will admit to having is my ability to see potential in everyone and everything. I see people as inherently good, who can do more with their lives, achieve greatness in their work, home and family. I view everyone to be a potential role model – after all you can always be used as a bad example as much as a good one.

I believe sport is the great teacher of life’s opportunities and challenges. If you participate in sport and give it your best focus and efforts it will reward you with wonderful life affirming characteristics that will guide you well through life. We speak in sporting terms, about getting on track, going to tackle a certain problem and needing to score. We talk about raising the bar, picking up the pace, jumping the gun, taking time out, leaving the ball in their court, and taking the shot.

Sport pushes the boundaries and limits you think you have, in mind and body. It stretches you, strengthens you and encourages you to go faster, higher and stronger which is the motto of the Olympics – Citius Altieus Fortius and now Communiter, meaning together.

Sport galvanises a school and nation with pride when a team succeeds. The mood of a country can lift or drop like when the All Blacks compete in the World Cup.

In the Cook Islands we really need to adjust our pride in sports people and stop using prejudice choosing who should represent us. Our attendance of nine Olympics reports how we were the happiest athletes or the best dressed in the opening ceremony, not the hardest working, grittiest performance or amazing achievement of qualifying. Most of our athletes attend as universality – non-qualified option. This was introduced to give the Olympics an involvement of every nation possible.

In 2019 Jane Nicholas qualified for Tokyo in white water canoeing. Despite the restrictions of Covid on her ability to train, compete and travel to overseas competitions to improve her abilities, she still made it through to the semi-finals.

What an achievement for our little country, it was so fantastic she appeared in countless overseas magazines including The New York Times who all rightly thought it was a big deal. Where was our pride in her achievement?

If this is news to you it is because of probably the prejudice in this country determined by our governing sporting body CISNOC (Cook Islands Sports and National Olympic Committee).  They have a dominant say over who gets to go and who gets scholarships and funding and have done so for years. They will get paid and go to the events, but it is not guaranteed for hard working athletes.

Jane was the only one of six athletes attending the Tokyo Olympics who qualified to be there, yet she was not given the pride position of flag bearer for the opening ceremony – prejudice?

She was the only athlete to compete in a semi-final, our closest athlete to obtaining a medal. Despite these, prejudice seemed to have reigned and when she applied for an Olympic scholarship for Paris Olympics 2024, CISNOC didn’t even present her federation’s nomination to IOC for consideration. 

We must be the only country in the world who denies an Olympic qualifier any recognition or support. CISNOC, say they want to win medals but they deny the growth and support of someone who may just give us a medal on the world stage.

Is it true that without consulting the selection committee, CISNOC substituted two canoe Olympian names for two non-Olympic Oe Vaka names. Why? Because they want medals in the Pacific Games? Why? Because they believe that is all we are capable of? They have dumbed down our expectations to say it is okay to aim low than high so if we fall short, we crash to the ground. Instead of striving to aim as high as the stars so if we fall short, we land on the moon!

CISNOC have prejudiced Jane because they say her sport is not achieved in the islands, well neither is swimming. None of our Olympian swimmers have grown up learning to swim in the islands and none of them have ever made a semi-final but all their nominations got an Olympic scholarship, prejudice?

The second canoe athlete denied of an Olympic scholarship grew up here, learnt to paddle here and trained here. Prejudice?

The Olympic scholarships worth $900 per month were given to paddlers 29 years and 37 years old so the latter can enter the novice division at the NZ canoe nationals last week. Are we supposed to be proud? Jane is 30 years old and has been paddling since she was 12 years old and qualified for the Olympics.

She deserves pride not prejudice.

  • Ruta Mave is a regular contributor to the Cook Islands News. The views expressed in this article are hers and do not reflect the views of this newspaper.


Craig Roberts on 01/05/2023

Ruta may need to check her facts about how many athletes had qualifying times for the Tokyo Olympics.