28 Jun 2017

Sport: Oceania Athletics Champs return to Fiji after 27 years

11:51 am on 28 June 2017

The Oceania Area Athletics Championships gets underway in Suva today, marking the first time they've been hosted in Fiji since the inaugural championships in 1990.

607 athletes from 22 countries and territories will compete over the next four days, with race winners in the senior division earning automatic qualification for the IAAF World Championships in London in August.

Athletics Fiji President Joe Rodan Senior said it was great to have the region's premier championships back where they began.

"From my understanding this would be the biggest athletics meet that we've ever had in Oceania," he said.

"And the reason why we are having this is because last year we organised the Melanesian Games (in Suva) and Oceania Athletics saw how well the Melanesian Games was organised so they decided to offer us the chance to host the Oceania again."

Fiji sprint king Banuve Tabakaucoro sets the pace at the 2016 Melanesian Championships.

Fiji hosted the 2016 Melanesian Championships. Photo: Oceania Athletics Association

The President of the IAAF, Lord Sebastian Coe, made an appearance in Suva, attending last week's Oceania Athletics Council Meeting and Congress.

Hosts Fiji have the largest team competing at ANZ Stadium with 179 athletes, while Norfolk Island have sent just two competitors.

Joe Rodan Senior said the regional championships also serve as important preparation for other major meets.

"For us in Fiji we have the opportunity to prepare for the coming Mini Games in Vanuatu and also the Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast next year," he said.

"But first, it's a great opportunity for Fiji and it's a great opportunity in the event that track and field is held in Fiji and it gives the opportunity to a lot of our good younger athletes that performed well during the Coca Cola (national) Games to move on to a next phase, which is Oceania Games."

"This will also give athletics a lot of exposure and hopefully we will keep a lot of our athletes that are coming out of the schools in track and field."

The Oceania Area Championships run until Saturday with the women's senior long jump and discus and the men's and women's 5000m among the opening events on day one.