By Alipate Pareti
All the way from the beautiful isles of Lau, Yasayasa Moala College was able to feature some of its best athletes for this year’s Coca Cola Games.
The team’s initial reasons for coming to Viti Levu was for an educational expedition, not the track and field meet.
Iliesa Draunidalo, a teacher at Yasayasa Moala College says, “Our main focus for coming here was our school’s field trip. We want to show our students the many different types of job opportunities and career paths that they might be interested in…that is why we are going around and visiting locations around Viti Levu.”
“We had to change our schedule and redirect our attention towards preparing our athletes. So, we did a fundraising with the help our teachers, parents and supporters, especially the ‘Tikina o Moala’ in order to be here for the Coke Games.”
Support has been tremendous.
“We also acknowledge and appreciate the support given to us here in Viti Levu. Many of our relatives now live and work in Suva, and they have been a great help for us. And not forgetting the ones living abroad, we thank them for providing our sports gears and uniforms.”
Draunidalo had similar reflections to many other small schools participating in the Coca Cola Games.
“This has been a very big learning curve for us. I told my athletes, no one has ever come here for the very first time expecting to win. This takes time and dedication to be able to win an event in the Coke Games. We must work very hard for that.
“We are going back to really prepare for this competition. Now that my students have experienced the level of competition here, they can’t wait to return next year.”
Although there were some challenges, Draunidalo plans to improve on that when they attend future games.
“Most of our athletes become shell-shocked when they reach Suva. The enormous crowd and loud atmosphere tends to take their focus away from the actual competition. But we can change that, we have to adjust and adapt to our environment. That way we will reach our goals and have better qualifying times.
“We should never count ourselves out just because we are from the islands. We have the capability and we can do better…that is what I tell my athletes,” he said. Moala Island is located in the middle of the Lau group, about 163 km from Suva (locals claim it’s the heart of the Lau province). It usually takes 6-8 hours to travel by boat.