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Athletics pick up pace after tough year

Monday January 27, 2020 Written by Published in Other Sports
Alex Beddoes won double-gold at the Pacific Games, and performed well at the Oceania Games too. Alex Beddoes won double-gold at the Pacific Games, and performed well at the Oceania Games too. OCEANIA ATHLETICS ASSOCIATION 20012615

Former Olympian Erin Quirk is moving forward at pace in the presidency of Athletics Cook Islands, with a vision of the country’s athletes reaching new heights this year.

 “Our aim is to keep raising the profile in competition standards and event management. With the Manea Games this year, Athletics Cook Islands encourages more athletes to take the opportunity to compete in events in the lead up to October,” Quirk said.

“The federation is focused on also increasing participation numbers across all age-groups and we want to encourage athletes to contact us to find out more information about how to get started.”

It comes after a tough few years culminating in the conviction of former treasurer Melanie Wilson, 39, for seven counts of theft involving $11,000 – much of it money intended for young athletes in the Pa Enua.

Wilson was sentenced to six months’ community service and in total, 18 months’ probation under supervision – and ordered to repay the stolen money.

Now the organisation is looking forward. Erin Quirk said that in her first year as president, her proudest moment was seeing Team Cook Islands in action at the Oceania Athletics Championships held in Australia.

“It was a big standout for me. It was the first big meet for many of our athletes and their focus and results gained were just fantastic, which included of course the bronze medal gained in the 4x100m relay, a first for us as a country.

“We as a federation are also extremely proud of our elite athlete Alex Beddoes, who finished 2019 with two gold medals at the Pacific Games as well as setting new national records in the 400m, 800m and 1500m in the process.”

Ahead of competing in the 800m at the Tokyo Olympics in July, Beddoes is heading to Europe alongside his Fast8 training partners as part of his preparation.

Beddoes is based in Melbourne alongside other 800m athletes from Australia, New Zealand and Scotland who all train alongside each other during the year.

After having a break over the Christmas period, members of the Youth Development Squad returned to training last week in preparation for the Polynesian Championships to be held in Tonga in May.

In its third year, once again the Youth Athletics Championships is a major event on the calendar as the federation looks to continue to develop the next-generation of athletes.

It provides a key competition for secondary school athletes to compete at, as well as seeing athletes from the Pa Enua who are generously flown over by Air Rarotonga as part of an on-going sponsorship arrangement.

This competition allows coaches here in Rarotonga to identify possible athletes to take to the New Zealand Secondary School Athletics Championship held in December.

Meanwhile, off the track in 2019, four members of the wider athletics community, including Rose Akava, Kevin Henderson, Ruth Tangiaau Mave and Anau Manarangi travelled to take part in courses to help gain skills that can be used here in the Cook Islands.

Recognising a current shortage of coaches within the Cook Islands, the federation is looking to host a World Athletics Level 1 coaching course in the April school holidays, to ensure further identification and development of junior athletes.

Members of the community who are interested are welcomed to contact Ruth Tangiaau Mave on 51418.

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