Former PNG head coach backs sprint queen Wisil’s statement

A former development officer and head coach has supported the statement made by PNG’s sprint queen against Athletics PNG (APNG).

Toea Wisil recently went viral with her Facebook post when she called out APNG and president Tony Green for intimidating athletes into submission as well as feeding them biscuits, especially during the Oceania Championships held in Cairns (June 24-28) in a post titled “Not Keeping it Quiet”.

“Athletes been eating Snax biscuits for breakfast and lunch before coming to Oceania and hungry while here. I am putting it out for the people to know what is going on in our sports.”

Wisil’s colleague, Pacific and national record holder in the 100m hurdles, and 2015 Pacific Games gold medallist, Sharon Kwarula, shared similar sentiments in a first-ever athletes’ forum yesterday (July 1st).

Kwarula told the group of athletes – from different codes – including former champion swimmer, Ryan Pini, who was there as the deputy chair of the Pacific Games Council Athletes Commission, that athletes are treated as robots.

“They give athletes two Snax biscuits a day and expect you to perform. They intimidate and bully you, especially when you try to speak up,” she said.

Sports & Education Consultant, Dior Lowry, also said: “As the former development officer based in Goroka, I confirm claims by Toea Wisil of improper nutrition. After eating dry scones, tin fish and rice for many, many meals with the athletes in 2017, I indicated to the federation the need for support to properly fuel athletes for training. This requirement was not met and led to a reduction in training time and programs to avoid injury and athlete burnout.”

Lowry said he made another recommendation to the federation in 2018 where “occasional average money was supplied for training”.

“To help with the push to inspire change, I enrolled in a continuing education specialization in nutrition. The hope that with more scientific proof to outline what I was saying, would make change; was present.

“After up and down money being sent, responsibilities to manage the money for food were being given to local coaches. These individuals were groomed by the federation to spend less and get by with biscuits, scones and tin fish. This even got to a point to where a local coach was under the impression that they should restrict athletes. Though inexperienced, he was also told his budgets were too large. Athletes would beg for biscuits on a daily basis because the amount they consumed was not enough for training.

“After removing these biscuits from the possession of the coach and freely giving athletes biscuits without tracking, other individuals were empowered with the little bit of money sent to the camp. Sponsor donations were appreciated but controlled for limited use. During this time I began engaging a local hotel for assistance, though willing to help; individuals need to be compensated for their work. With no finances from the federation to support the initiative, there was no outcome.

“Athletes who were constantly hungry no longer wanted to reside in Goroka after being hungry so many days. Athletes indicated the dissatisfaction with the food in Goroka during a press conference in Port Moresby in 2019,” continued Lowry.

“When I was away from the camp the federation sent another coach and gave instruction to an executive member to bully athletes into running trials and training whether they had proper food or not, this was ‘because they needed to run’.”

“As stated in my notice to terminate my contract addressed to the federation on May 17 and received May 20, I wanted to see more support.

“Though financial times in the country may be hard to come by, the job of the federation and its executives is to find a way to acquire financial resources for the athletes and professionals brought to the program and the country.

“Other sports are receiving big amounts of money and there is no excuse. If the collective of the executives are incapable of being transparent, acquiring financial resources to and properly plan and manage them for High Performance, Grassroots Development, Coach Education and Officials Development, they should step aside and allow a more qualified local collective advance the sport.”

Meantime, in response to the athlete’s concerns, APNG president, Tony Green, said contrary to the message being portrayed by a couple of individuals, the team is in high spirits and really looking forward to the Pacific Games.

“It is most unfortunate that a small number of disaffected individuals are seeking to cause instability in the team.

“The question people should be asking is how on earth does an organisation like Athletics PNG that has such limited resources achieve so much? It has managed to keep a large squad of athletes together for almost nine months, feeding and housing them and even meeting school fees. 

“It has taken 20 athletes to Thailand for competition, a total of 43 athletes to the Oceania Championships, and had the jumps squad training full time in Australia since mid-May. This doesn’t just happen. Money is very hard to come by in PNG’s current economic climate and raising the funds and in kind sponsorships to carry out such programmes is extremely hard work.

“Coaches who spent extended periods of time in Goroka reported that the athletes were very happy and the food arrangements were satisfactory, thanks to generous donations from Prima Smallgoods, Trukai, Lae Biscuit and the support of the PNG Olympic Committee.

“It is unfortunate that an incident that was best handled in-house has received much press and public discussion on social media, and the conversation does not represent by any means the full story.

“Athletics PNG is working closely with the PNG Olympic Committee and Team PNG for Samoa to sort out misunderstandings,” added Green.

Photo file. Caption Toea Wisil 

Carmella Gware