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Developing sporting excellence

Saturday 29 July 2023 | Written by Supplied | Published in Athletics, Sports


Developing sporting excellence
Celebrating 60 years of Athletics Cook Islands. From left, Jennifer Liew (nee Henderson), Athletics Cook Islands president Simone Fe’ao, former president Ina Marsters and Anne Tierney. ACI/ 23072855

Athletics Cook Islands (ACI) have had a busy week of learning, developing and celebrating with an athletics academy, a mini competition and a 60th birthday celebration.

Last Friday, July 21 was the start of a four-day athletics academy run by Athletics Cook Islands (ACI). It was a collaborative effort with ACI and the team from Oceania Athletics headquarters in the Gold Coast, Australia.

Yvonne Mullins, Alison Fairweather and Regan Kama (Oceania Athletics) travelled over to Rarotonga last Thursday to support the academy. Over the four days, there were 46 participants who signed up as either athletes, coaches or officials.

The purpose of the academy was for shared learning, technical skills, relationship building, inspiration and goal setting.

Athletics CI president Simone Fe’ao said “these academies are the nurturing grounds, where passion meets guidance and dreams evolve into reality”.

Day one of academy was about everyone getting to know one another and learning some athletics fundamentals. Day two and three was intensive learning for each of the three disciplines where the coaches, officials and athletes broke off into their individual groups to focus on technical skills and deep knowledge of their roles and responsibilities on the track or field.

Day four was a day of practical application. They created a mini athletics competition at the stadium, where all the participants worked in their individual roles to strategise and successfully administer a positive event and experience for all. The competition was also the final trial for our high-performance athletes who are trialing for Pacific Games.

Aspiring middle distance runner Cole Bamber (15 years old), competed in the 800 and 1500 metres.

“It was a bit intimidating running alongside Rupeni (Mataitonga). He’s like the flash on the track. That is something for me to aspire to. I’ve learnt a lot at the academy.”

Oceania Athletics CEO Yvonne Mullins shared with the participants that “you should all be proud”.

“From humble beginnings Athletics Cook Islands has come a long way and it can only get better but it’s the people that help make that happen. Create more competitions for your athletes, officials and coaches to gain better experience. “It’s not an easy job and sometimes it can be really tiring but the rewards are worth it.

“Look, Cook Islands won World Kids Athletics this year! That’s out of over 100 countries worldwide. That’s amazing! That is a good sign that you are doing something very right.”

Anyone keen to be involved in athletics in anyway can contact Athletics CI secretary Gina Tavioni Bamber or phone 78621. Parents wishing to register their kids for kids athletics can come to training at the stadium during school term 3pm every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and talk to coach Ruth Mave.

Sixty years of athletics in the Cook Islands

It was a night of reminiscing, paying homage and celebrating achievements for Athletics Cook Islands who held a combined celebration dinner the night of Monday, July 24 at The Edgewater Resort and Spa.  

The dinner, arranged by Athletic CI president Simone Fe’ao and executive board, was an opportunity to award the participants of the athletics academy their certificates for completion of their respective courses and it was also a chance for lifetime and past members of ACI to come together to acknowledge 60 years of athletics in the Cook Islands.

Fe’ao opened the night saying, “we commemorate the achievements of our academies’ athletes, applauding their unwavering commitment, and their dedication to becoming the best versions of themselves. Tonight, we also raise our glasses to those who have paved the way for our success. We pay homage to the visionaries who laid the foundation of Athletics Cook Islands 60 years ago. They form the pillars of our organisation, whose path-breaking efforts and unyielding spirit continue to inspire us today”.

Yvonne Mullins, CEO of Oceania Athletics, was keynote speaker. Mullins asked past presidents Anne Tierney and Ina Marsters to join her up the front while she did her speech. She also called on Jennifer Henderson who was there to represent her father Percy Henderson, the first president of Athletics Cook Islands.

“We had good coaches and pretty good technical officials. Some of them are still working on the field these days. But they kept seeming to miss opportunities for getting better, that’s what pushed me into it,” said Anne Tierney of her time in athletics. Tierney’s daughter Erin Quirke would go on to become ACI president some years later with current president Fe’ao taking over from Erin.

“It’s my daughter Siniva who pushed me into Athletics,” said Ina Marsters.

Marsters also acknowledged the late Vainga Tonga, “it was him who took her (Siniva) under his belt and they started throwing coconuts at the Are Kaute with all the outer island students. That’s how we started to get into athletics”.

Jennifer Henderson shared her childhood memories in athletics following alongside her father Percy – “my sister and I would push that little trolley thing, I remember that. We’d sit there while Dad was doing his athletics things, I remember that.”

After the speeches the certificates were given out to the 46 participants who completed the athletics academy – 20 officials, 21 athletes and five coaches all proudly received their certificates and a gift bag kindly donated by Oceania Athletics.

There was even a cake cutting for the 60 years and everyone broke out into the happy birthday song to close the night.

Cheers to Athletics Cook Islands, its vibrant past and its promising future.

ACI executive wish to thank Oceania Athletics for their continued support of the sport in the Cook Islands.

They also want to thank the team at The Edgewater Resort and Spa for hosting such a great evening.

Athletics Cook Islands