Toea Wisil is going.
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Date Posted: 21:23:15 03/23/05 Wed
Wisil runs against all odds
By HENRY MORABANG
SHE has never been to school, understands no English, and is only just picking up a few words in Tok Pisin – and still getting used to wearing shoes! No Tok Pisin? Is this some foreigner just arrived in the country?
No, 17-year-old Toea Wisil is one of many Papua New Guinean youth who live in remote villages around the country and only speak the mother tongue – either there is no school nearby, or they just don’t have the money to pay school fees.
But this Western Highland girl is determined to break the invisible barriers.
After 17 years, she is finally wearing shoes – and tearing down the athletic tracks at high speed - in Brisbane, Australia mind you - and winning medals despite her communication problem and the running shoes.
Wisil said before leaving for Brisbane that she wishes she had training shoes long before she actively took part in athletics.
She admitted before departing for Brisbane for the U-18 championship two weeks ago that she now feels better in track shoes – which she never had before her introduction to athletics.
From Konambil village in the Banz District, Wisil is unique if anything.
With no formal education unlike most athletes, this makes it very difficult for her to understand English, and even Tok Pisin, which in the urban areas you just sort of grow up with.
National athletics coach Noami Polum says Wisil had hardly understood a word at the time of her “discovery”, but she is a quick learner and has already picked up few words.
“We do sign language to her as if she was deaf. She only spoke her language until she made her first trip to Lae where she picked up few Tok Pisin words,” Polum says.
Wisil had no formal coaching except for “bush coaching” until she caught the eyes of athletic officials during PNG Provincial Games in Goroka two years back
Through her commitment and dedication, the village girl had to travel every weekend from her village to Mt Hagen and on to Goroka to improve her running skills under the watchful eyes of Tony Green.
With National Sports Institute (NSI) having no programme to look after athlete such as Wisil, Green who, is also the president of PNG Athletic Union took it upon himself to support her and many other unfortunate athletes, and she spent several months training under Green’s stable.
PNGAU took a big gamble when if sent Wisil to National Athletic Championship in Lae last year.
In fact, this was her first trip out of the Western and Eastern Highlands provinces, and also her first in an airplane.
During the championship, she had to run barefoot on the hot Sir Ignatius Kilage synthetic athletic track.
Even after that, she still trained and ran without shoes. She only started wearing just before shoes boarding her first international flight to Cairns for the Oceania Junior Championships late last year.
Running for the first time in life with shoes, she won two silver medals – an astonishing start for a first-time runner, and considering she was still getting used to the shoes.
This month, Wisil is among five elite PNG athletes currently in Brisbane, Australia attending a series of competitions over the next five weeks in preparation for the Melanesian Championship in Lae next month.
This was her second trip overseas and she wants to improve her time and keep fit for the Melanesian Championship.
And latest reports from Down Under are that Wisil has continued to improve since returning from the Oceania championships last December.
“Toea has shown great determination in her training and is a fearless competitor” said Green earlier this week. “Her performances to date have been quite remarkable”
In Brisbane on Sunday, Wisil won a silver medal in 400 metres in her personal best time of 57.93 seconds and a bronze in the 200m.
Her timing in the semi finals also qualifies her for the World Youth Championship in Morocco in July 14-17.
Green so far has been very happy with the impressive performances by two female runners.
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