Dani Samuels throwing at the 2012 Australian Championships (Getty Images) © Copyright

Samuels To Fine Tune at Oceania Champs - PREVIEW

Australia does not usually send a full strength team to the Oceania Championships.

And the most powerful nation athletically in the IAAF’s most widespread and least-populated area has stuck with its normal practice for the 11th edition of the championships beginning in Cairns on Wednesday (27 June).

The team is headed by a World champion, however, with 2009 World champion in women’s discus Dani Samuels opting to use the titles as a warm-up competition before heading to Europe for a couple of Samsung Diamond League meetings and then the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Samuels will be joined by Olympic walk representative Claire Tallent in representing Australia at the titles, while the men’s 4x100m Relay, currently sitting in a precarious 15th place on the London qualifiers’ list, will try to consolidate its position among the top 16.

Samuels, who became the youngest-ever women’s World champion in the discus in Berlin three years ago, should not face too tough a competitive task but she will have a decent championships record set by another World champion to contend with. New Zealand’s Beatrice Faumuina, the Athens 1997 World champion, set the current mark at 58.32m two years ago, also in Cairns.

Just 400 athletes from the area’s 20 full- and two associate-member nations will take part in the championships. IAAF vice-president Sergey Bubka, whose induction into the IAAF Hall of Fame along with fellow vice-president Sebastian Coe has just been announced, attended an Oceania IAAF Centenary Gala dinner in Cairns on the eve of the championships.

For the most part, the athletes competing in the 11th Oceania championships will achieve lesser performances and are chasing less lofty goals than their counterparts in Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe, but their achievements will be no less valued for that.

Fiji, for example, is sending two athletes to the coming World junior championships in Barcelona (10-15 July), Roy Ravana Jr and Danni Alakija. In a first for the Pacific island nation, both qualified on merit.

Ravana, who has personal bests of 47.79 and 52.95 in the 400m flat and hurdles, respectively, will run the U20 version of those events in Cairns.

Samoa throwers Alex Rose and Emanuele Fuamotu. Rose, 21, has a personal best of 58.69m in the discus; 23-year-old Fuamatu, a former World Youth and World Junior championships finalist, has a best of 19.46m in the Shot Put. The pair will meet in both events in Cairns with Olympic selection the possible prize.

Papua New Guinea will have ambitions in the sprints. Mae Koime, the championships record holder at 11.66, will be attempting to win another title in the women’s 100m, while Donna Koniel is entered in the 400 flat and hurdles and the 800m.

Provided it gets the baton around – always problematic in relays, of course – Australia should both win the men’s 4x100 relay and break the modest championship record of 41.48 set by Fiji in Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands in 2008. The question is, will it be able to improve on its position on the Olympic rankings.

Competition from guest nation Japan (which has the same aim) will help there and the Australian squad will fly from Cairns to Japan for further competition in Osaka on Sunday, 1 July.

The men’s relay is on Thursday, 28 June and the women’s discus on the final day of competition, Friday, 29 June.

Len Johnson for the IAAF