Editorial comment | Inspiring on the field

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Former Tavua College student Yeshnil Karan. Picture: MELI LADPETER

What a run! What a beauty! While there are many heroes in Fiji’s campaign at the Pacific Games in the Solomon Islands, it was difficult to not be drawn to the exploits of the young man from Tavua.

When Yeshnil Karan powered his way to the finish in that 5000m final to win gold this week, it was difficult not be moved emotionally.

It was a defining moment for Fijian athletics! We may have lost the bragging rights to the blue-ribbon events and some other events at the games, yet it was good to finally have some confidence back with Karan’s powerful finishing.

Yesterday the young man bagged his third gold medal after winning the men’s 3000 metre steeplechase final.

The 22-year-old clocked a time of 9 minutes 18.48 seconds while his fellow teammate Evueli Toia clocked 9 minutes 47.14 seconds for the bronze medal.

One thing that stood out yesterday was his statement in the wake of the final.

The win on the tracks at the Main Stadium in Honiara was the fruit of hard work and sacrifices. It was about setting goals and staying focused.

And that meant doing so over a few months. The focus for Karan was on the Pacific Games!

There was a goal, and he worked on achieving that even if it took hours, weeks, and months.

The former Tavua College student won gold in the men’s 10,000m, 5000m and yesterday, the 3000m steeplechase.

His dream of representing Fiji at the Pacific Games started back in 2019 after winning Coca-Cola Games gold medals in the senior boys 1500m and 3000m events.

From early morning road runs along sugarcane fields in Tavua, Karan has come a long way to represent Fiji on the international stage. Karan stands as an apt example of what should be happening in Fiji sports.

Preparations for the next Pacific Games should start after this Solomons campaign, not a few weeks leading up to the next games in Tahiti in 2027. We seem to have that problem ingrained in our mindset.

Athletes and sporting organisations seem to go to sleep after a major event, and slowly get back into competition mode on the year of major events. It is a sad reflection of how we prepare for such events.

However, we realise it isn’t easy preparing, especially for minor sports which rarely if ever, have financial incentives for athletes. That is obvious when you compare them to rugby for instance, or rugby league.

So it makes sense then that there has to be a change in mindset at the top hierarchy of sporting organisations. This is when they must think outside the box, focus on financial backing, offer incentives, and a reason for athletes to stay focused and passionate.

That isn’t going to be a stroll in the park, but it must be done if we plan on improving our standards, and position at the regional level. Sporting events like the Pacific Games can unite a nation, bringing together people from all walks of life, across gender, religion and ethnicity.

This week, many Fijians had a reason to be happy. They rode on the back of Karan, willing him on, and taking great pride in boasting about his achievements. He ran in the cane fields of Tavua once, trained with renowned sports administrator Atma Maharaj in Australia, and ran with passion at the Games in the Solomons. You could see it in his face. You could feel it in his race.

The effort, confidence, and commitment. He was focused and believed in himself. We had top distance runners who dominated the stage like Isireli Naikelekelevesi, Shiri Chand Mushroom, Salome Tabuatalei, Usaia Sotutu, Davendra Prakash Singh and Moses Zarak Khan.

We now have Yeshnil Karan! What a week, and what an athlete! In saying that congratulations are also in order for all our medal winners.

We are grateful, and very proud of you all!