Report from David Little, observing from UK. May 2nd. 2019.
The Arafura Games began as the “Arafura Sports Festival” in 1991 with 1500 athletes in seven sports. From 1999 the name changed to “Arafura Games”. With the exception of 2003, they have been held every two years until 2011, when they incorporated the Oceania Paralympic Championships in four sports. For various reasons, including perceived cost, there were no Games in 2012, 2015, or 2017. A decision was made to re-commence the event in April – May this year. Invitations were sent out earlier this year.
An approach was made to Kiribati Athletics Association (KAA) and this was referred to the National Olympic Committee (KNOC) since this is a multi-sport event. It was decided to send KAA athletes and a pair for Beach Volleyball. Offers were made to KNOC to cover the cost of return travel and accommodation. The organisers did everything to encourage KNOC to respond by sending athletes/players. But no application was made for the necessary FREE visas and thus no-one travelled from Tarawa. Fortunately four lifters, training in New Caledonia, were able to register for the Games and had their travel and other costs covered, independent of KNOC. It was possible that I-Kiribati Para athletes might have been able to travel, but this arrangement also fell through.
So four weight-lifters arrived in Darwin and prepared to compete. Their results:-
On April 27th. Ruben Katoatau (age 22) competed in the Mens’ 67 kg. category and won the GOLD medal, against five other lifters. His performances were:- in the snatch he lifted 125 kg., in clean and jerk 160 kg., giving a total of 285 kg.
On April 28th. 24-year-old Taretiita Baraniko Tabaroua contested the Mens’ 73 kg. category and ranked 4th. of the 8 lifters. His lifts were: 125 + 160 = 285 kg.
On the same day, 22-year-old Nei Tiiau Bakaekiri lifted 80 + 100 = 180 kg. in the Womens’ 71 kg. category and was ranked 4th. out of six.
Then on April 29th., the 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medallist, David Katoatau, contested the Mens’ 102 kg. division and won the silver medal. His lifts were: 140 + 190 = 330 kg. In the absence of a travelling coach, David was supervising the team.
Thus Kiribati was successfully represented at this major Asian competition. The next Arafura Games is due in spring of 2021.