Athletics faces schedule, funding challenges


Hurdles equipment is lined up at the Oleai Sports Complex’s track and field facility waiting for maintenance work. (Northern Marianas Athletics)

With the COVID-19 crisis forcing either the cancelation or postponement of competitions, Oceania Athletics Association member federations, including the CNMI, see schedule and funding challenges ahead.

“There is a lot of overlap,” Northern Marianas Athletics secretary general and OAA president Robin Sapong said.

The CNMI, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, and Palau compete in the Oceania Micronesian Regional Championships, which was supposed to take place on Saipan this month, but has been suspended indefinitely. They will also participate in the Micronesian Games in the Marshall Islands in 2022 and in the Pacific Mini Games, which Saipan will be hosting and has been moved from 2021 to 2022.

Besides these tournaments, Sapong said Kiribati and Nauru are also joining the Commonwealth Games (Birmingham, United Kingdom) plus there will be two world events—the World Under 20 Championships (originally in Kenya from June 28 to July 3) and World Athletics Championships (in Eugene, Oregon from July 15 to July 24).

“We will also need to take into account the qualifying period for the World Championships, probably around June 27. These dates don’t take into account the rescheduling of the Pacific Mini Games to 2022 and we also have to consider the OAA Regional Championships,” Sapong said.

In this file photo, participants in the Oceania Micronesian Regional Championships 2018 pose for a group photo at the conclusion of the tournament at the Oleai Sports Complex. Saipan was supposed to host the 2020 edition of the regional event, but the competition has been suspended due to the COVID-19 crisis. (Northern Marianas Athletics)

The OAA president added that they are open to discussions with member federations to hear their concerns and the association is also taking into consideration the challenges other MFs, not just those in Micronesia, are facing.

“OAA has a commitment to the Pacific Mini Games, Micronesian Games, and the Oceania Regional Championships (Melanesian, Micronesian, Polynesian). The implications suggest that the timing of events need to be considered by all MFs rather than just the Micronesian MFs. MFs outside of Micronesia are already asking for some clarity around the dates,” Sapong said.

“The challenges will be on the availability of funding for federations to attend both the Pacific Mini Games and the Micronesian Games. They are funded from the same funding pool,” he added.

The CNMI Pacific Mini Games Oversight Committee has proposed to move the quadrennial competition to 2022 in response to the Pacific Games Council’s request to consider making changes with the event’s dates to avoid conflict with next year’s Tokyo Olympic Games. The 2022 Micronesian Games, on the other hand, is set between July 10 and Aug. 6, and according to the Micronesian Games Council, discussion on the possible rescheduling of the competition has yet to be made.

Roselyn Monroyo | Reporter
Roselyn Monroyo is the sports reporter of Saipan Tribune. She has been covering sports competitions for more than two decades. She is a basketball fan and learned to write baseball and football stories when she came to Saipan in 2005.
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