Two young Solomon Island athletes are swapping tropical weather and dusty roads for a stint in Melbourne in preparation for the upcoming Pacific Games – all with the support of Australian aid workers and a Melbourne-based Olympian.
Rosefelo Siosi and Sharon Firisua captured the hearts of Australians living in Honiara with their contagious enthusiasm and tireless work ethic, overcoming the difficulties resulting from a decade-long civil conflict and recent flooding event that devastated the city.
‘Rossi’, as he likes to be called, became a national marathon champion at the age of 16, and now he and Ms Firisua are respective 5,000m national record holders. Both have also represented their small island nation at events in Tahiti, Wallis and Futuna, the Cook Islands and recent Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
Now with the support of the Solomon Islands Government, Rossi and Ms Firisua are travelling to the south eastern Melbourne suburbs to train with Glenhuntly Athletic Club. The trip was made possible thanks to the generous support and good will of former Olympian, Commonwealth Games gold medallist and Life Member of Glenhuntly Athletics, Trevor Vincent. Having taken an interest in the athletes in early 2014, Trevor has offered to mentor and coach the Rossi and Ms Firisua as they prepare for the largest Pacific sporting event being staged this year in Papua New Guinea.
19 old Rossi said he was really looking forward to the chance to improve his running and go even faster.
“It’s an amazing experience to come to a sports-crazy nation like Australia. We are very grateful for all the support we have received to make the visit happen and hope we can make everyone, including our families, proud.”
Solomon Islands is one of the poorest nations in the Pacific with high levels of unemployment, malaria infection, infant mortality and diabetes. Athletes battle heat, humidity, traffic, a lack of sporting facilities and equipment. The national athletics track doubles as a rugby field, often requiring athletes to cut the grass by hand with machetes or “bush knives” before they can train.
Joining Rossi and Ms Firisua in Australia will be two young triathletes, Rocky Donald and Jad Nalo. At just 16, Rocky is the Solomon Islands National Triathlon Champion while Mr Nalo recently represented Solomons in triathlon at the recent Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
While Athletics Victoria and the Solomon Islands Victoria Association (SIVA) will also be providing support to the athletes, Glenhuntly Athletic Club is looking for donations of the following items:
- Running shoes (new or second hand)
- Running clothing (especially compression or warm clothing)
- Bikes (new or second hand)
- Swimming pool entry (2 to 3 month pass)
- Train/tram/bus travel vouchers
- Supermarket vouchers
Please contact Trevor Vincent on 0407 922 597 (or firstname.lastname@example.org) if you would like to help out or come down and see the athletes train.