Is the goal of forty gold medals too ambitious?

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Whether the goal is attainable or just an illusion will be determined by how we prepare for the Games.

The enthusiasm for the right to host the Pacific Games has prompted the National Hosting Authority (NHA) to ambitiously set forty (40) gold medals for the Solomons team by 2023.

In July 2019, NHA President Dr Jimmy Rogers told reporters that the authority set 40 gold medals as a goal for Team Solomons at the 2023 Pacific Games. He further added that Solomon Island is naturally endowed with athletic men and women capable of meeting such expectations.

The heart of his speech then was the pledge that the national government will commit to supporting the country’s athletes in any way possible to achieve the goal. Whether the goal is attainable or just an illusion will be determined by how we prepare for the Games.

It is now clear that the person responsible for achieving the goal is Aaron Alsop from Australia. Mr. Alsop was instrumental in helping PNG win the most medals at the 2015 Pacific Games in Port Moresby. Unfortunately, Mr Alsop, who should have been in the full-time post from last year 2020, was not yet in the post.

The Australian is expected to work with sports associations, athletes and coaches across the country to prepare for the games. I guess the delay in preparing our athletes may have been due to the global Covid situation and the ongoing construction of the games facilities.

Whatever the reason for the delay, the point is that we are wasting precious time. The country has less than two years to prepare, we should at least encourage or organize the athletes to continue their training while waiting for the actual training under Alsop.

However, although private training is encouraged, there is not enough space for everyone. Perhaps football alone is the only sport that has its own home and a well-established league system in the country.

No wonder Solomon Islands female track and field athlete Sharon Firisua paints a grim picture of the country’s chances by 2023. Sharon mentioned that the athletes have nowhere to train. She added that the Honiara City Council (HCC) has allowed athletes to use Lawson Tama Stadium alongside football.

However, the arrangement was stopped following advice from the Solomon Islands Football Federation (SIFF). Firisua said the SIFF action had cooled their minds and worse, dashed all hopes for a medal.

This heralds a bad start for the Solomons team. As other Pacific nations prepare in earnest for the Games, Solomon Islands athletes are still competing for training space. This is not useful for the Team Solomon campaign.

Rather than wait for the games facilities to be completed, the NHA needs to quickly find a way to get our athletes moving. Failure to do so would see the forty gold medals slip away under our watch. Whatever happens, it reflects our level of preparation.

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