2002 – Geelong, Australia
In January 2002, less than six months after the 2001 Brisbane World Championships, Australians and New Zealanders could again enjoy international competition at the 11th Oceania Championships. The regional city of Geelong in Victoria has a strong masters athletics fraternity and they conducted very well organized Championships. A total of 416 athletes from the OMA regional affiliates and New Caledonia attended.
The new innovation of an Athletes’ Forum was well attended with athletes providing valuable feedback to the Oceania Council and future championship hosts.
One of the driving forces in bringing the championships to Geelong was local champion multi-event athlete M75 Rudi Hochreiter. Throughout the championships Rudi was kept busy in his role on the LOC and also as a medal winning participant.
2004 – Raratonga, Cook Islands
The largest of the 15 islands of Cook Islands was venue for the 12th Oceania Veterans Athletics Championships 2004.
Of the 266 competitors, 116 were from Australia and 115 from New Zealand. This was the first occasion since the 1984 Oceania/Australian Championships in Canberra that there were more Aussies than Kiwis. Most popular age groups were W55, W60, W65, M60 and M65.
It was impressive that such a small and isolated community could organize a week long international athletics carnival so successfully. The picturesque sports stadium, nestled beneath steep forest covered hills with its excellent grass athletics track was the main venue for the championships.
The meet was conducted in an efficient and friendly manner and despite appearing to be low key there were many memorable performances. W95 Ruth Frith (Qld) always impresses those who watch her participate in all throwing events and in Rarotonga she didn’t disappoint by setting three new World Records.
Some of the most exciting events for spectators were when a Cook Islander was involved especially when challenging for a place.
At the Assembly held during the championships two important decisions were made – to change the name to ” Masters” and to allow M30s to participate in future. A sad event during the championships was the death of Australian competitor Trevor Bish when boating on the reef.
Trish Thomas (AUS) learned of an urgent need for a permanent breast screening facility in Rarotonga so sought permission to help by asking athletes for donations. She was pleased to hand over more than $700 to the local Breast Cancer Society.
A highlight of the enjoyable Closing Ceremony was a presentation of traditional Cook Island dance and music. A pleasant surprise was everyone being given an engraved pearl shell to wear like a winner’s medal.
2006 – Christchurch, New Zealand
Most of 424 entries in the 13th OMA Championships were from host nation New Zealand, and Australia but 13 Cook Islanders, a Norfolk Islander and several others had travelled from England, Czech Republic, Germany, India, Mexico and United States. Women made up more than 38% of entries.
The large QEII stadium was the main focus for track and field. Both the 8km cross-country course adjacent to the stadium and the 10km road walk in Hagley Park near the city centre were excellent venues for competitors and spectators alike.
There were many exciting competitions, numerous championship and national records and even four World Records as well as a Commonwealth Games qualifying performance in the high jump. Two great champions, both Australians, produced a brace of World Records ; W55 Heather Carr 3000m walk 15.31.84 and 10km road walk 54.01 and W95 Ruth Frith heavy weight throw with her toss of 5.11m and throwing pentathlon score of 6750 points.
2008 – Townsville, Australia
The week-long 14th OMA Championships (July 27 – August 3) was a great success; superb weather, first class venues, efficient organisation, friendly officials, exciting competition and an opportunity for non Queenslanders to enjoy a tropical holiday. Most competition occurred at the all-weather track and its adjacent throwing field, both the road walk and cross-country were held within the Botanic Gardens while the half marathon was run along the beachfront.
Making up the 470 competitors were 293 Australians, 138 New Zealanders, 11 Cook Islanders, seven New Caledonians, five Indians, four Tahitians, two from Wallis and Futuna and a representative from each of Norfolk Island, Thailand and the USA.
The LOC, led by the ‘unflappable’ Yvonne Mullins, did a wonderful job organising a very successful championships. Some of the little things that made the week enjoyable were limited use of a call room, low cost evening meals and drinks at the end of each day’s program and excellent catering at both the road walk and cross-country while the briefing to officials at the beginning helped set the tone for a friendly carnival. A casual drinks and nibbles celebratory get-together for officials was a nice way to thank them. A highlight was a practical lesson in Polynesian dancing by the Tahitians.
There were some outstanding performances including an M65 World Record by Ron Robertson of NZ (steeplechase 7mins 18.10secs), several Australian Records, three of which were set by Margaret Taylor in the jumps and 53 Championship Records.
2010 – PAPEETE, TAHITI:
The 15th OMA Championships may well be a significant milestone in the evolution of our sport in the region because of the relatively high proportion of Pacific islanders participating. Of the 278 participants (158 men and 120 women) 83 were locals (French Polynesians), 30 representing the Cook Islands, 9 from New Caledonia and one man from Nauru. This augurs well for the future of OAMA.
Stan Perkins, newly elected WMA President, attended these championships and provided much assistance with medal presentations.
Many of the 98 Australians and 68 New Zealanders, emerging from mid-winter, would have been affected by the heat and humidity of this beautiful tropical setting. Apart from trying to cope with the weather there were some problems with arranging transport between accommodation and venues.
The athletics track was brand new and the courses for both the road walks and the cross-country races featured scenic ocean views. As the half marathon was held along a main road it commenced at 5.30am attempting to beat the worst of the traffic and the heat.
The LOC headed by Titaua Juventin, President of Federation D ‘ Athletisme De Polynesie Francaise, provided well organised competition and other related activities. The day trip to the nearby island of Moorea where we swam in the crystal clear water was a highlight as was the closing dinner at the Captain Bligh Restaurant where the outstanding traditional dancers provided a great show.