The Northern Marianas Pacific Mini Games 2022 will offer events for para athletes and the Mini Games organizing committee hopes para athletes from Micronesia, including the CNMI, will come out and compete.
Northern Marianas Pacific Mini Games 2022 Organizing Committee CEO Vicente “Ben” Babauta said the para events will run concurrently with the Mini Games from June 17 to 25, 2022.
“We’re looking forward for our local para athletes to join and hopefully we will have some athletes from the rest of Micronesia as well. This is an opportunity for them to compete in para events. In the past most [of the competitors are from the South Pacific] so having para athletes from Micronesia will be exciting,” he said.
So far, the para events offered in next year’s Mini Games will be men’s and women’s shot put (ambulant and seated), men’s and women’s javelin, and 100m (ambulant). In addition, for the very first time, there is a possibility that there will be either a 400m or 800m wheelchair race offered for men’s and women’s. The Pacific Games Council will finalize a decision on this event at their November assembly.
Oceania Athletics Association secretary general Robin Sapong said events for para athletes is actually part of the chartered events of the Pacific Games Council under athletics.
“Although para events are under the International Paralympic Committee, as one of the sports federations to deliver the games, we are working closely with the NMI Pacific Mini Games CEO and the local organizing committee on securing implements and also access to and from the playing field for our para athletes,” he said.
Sapong said para athletics being part of the Mini Games gives the CNMI the opportunity to promote diversity and inclusion in sports.
“As the host we need to ensure we consider the safety and welfare of the para athletes as they have different classification. We plan to set up guidelines based on current IPC standards on procedures for the assessment of athletes and the allocation of classification. We are very excited to be the first sport federation to host para events in our region. Of course we will need the support from our community, partners, and stakeholder to deliver these events.”
Yvonne Mullins, OAA executive director and technical delegate for the 2022 Pacific Mini Games, said she’s very excited to be able to help deliver para events at next year’s Mini Games.
“We have never been in a position to offer para events at our previous Championships or Games held on Saipan and we looking forward to highlighting these events. We are hoping that we can include the wheelchair track event which will give more para athletes the opportunity to compete. The CNMI has not previously entered any para athletes at the Pacific Games, so this will be a first for the host island-nation, an opportunity they cannot afford to take advantage of,” she said.
Mullins added that para events have grown in popularity at the last two Pacific Games in Papua New Guinea and Samoa and it expected that as time goes by they will become more popular.
“OAA is actively encouraging more events at their Championships and will look for opportunities to ensure that all para athletes are able to be classified according to their ability prior to the Games. With preparations well underway for the track and field facility to be upgraded in time for the Games, the local Organizing committee has already been in discussions with OAA to ensure the facility is purpose-fit for para athletics events,” she said.