Griffith training boost for elite Oceania athletes

Athletes from the Oceania region get ready for a training session in boxing on the first of three GAPS training camps held on the Gold Coast.

The first of three training camps held at Griffith University for elite athletes from Pacific Commonwealth nations and territories has been declared a success for regional sporting development by Griffith Sports College Director Duncan Free OAM.

Griffith University hosted 40 athletes and 15 coaches on campus this month through the GAPS (Gather Adjust Prepare Sustain) program, giving them an insight into what it takes to compete at a high-performance level.

“We’re really pleased with what we were able to achieve with the first camp in the program, and we’re hoping to build on it as we get closer to the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (GC2018),” said Mr Free, who managed the program through Griffith Sports College .

The GAPS program, which is supported by funding from the Commonwealth Games Federation and City of the Gold Coast, caters for athletes competing in swimming, boxing, beach volleyball, lawn bowls and athletics.

The first camp focused on athletes in track and field, lawn bowls, boxing and beach volleyball, giving many a first-hand look at the Gold Coast and the venues where they could be competing come 2018.

“The feedback sessions with athletes and coaches showed that they all loved the opportunity to be a part of a high-performance training environment,” said Mr Free, an Olympic gold medallist who has been through the rigours of elite sport at four Olympic Games.

Griffith Sports College Director Duncan Free
Griffith Sports College Director Duncan Free

“Through the program they learned new techniques and training methods and received some vital education sessions on nutrition and psychology.

“These are athletes that could be competing against Australians at GC2018, so developing their capabilities is an important Games legacy for the Oceania region.

“For many of them, the highlight was simply the access they received to elite athlete services and also by just being in a high-performance environment where they were solely committed to training for the week.

“It was also a great opportunity for them to be in a camp testing their skills against other elite athletes from the region and training side by side with them.”

The first GAPS training camp for track and field athletes was held at the Sports Super Centre, Runaway Bay,and the Griffith University athletics track.

Lawn bowlers also had a taste of the competition venue at Broadbeach Bowls Club and the official training venue at Musgrave Bowls Club, while Coolangatta also hosted beach volleyball training.

Athletes participating in the GAPS program come from Vanuatu, Fiji, Tuvalu, Solomon Islands, Cook Islands, Niue, Nauru, Kiribati, Samoa and Papua New Guinea. Guest athletes from Sri Lanka and Guyana were also in attendance. Among the athletes were a number of previous Olympic and Commonwealth Games representatives.

The second round of athletes is due in May/June 2017, followed by the final camp in January 2018 as a part of final preparations for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games in April 2018.

“During the final camp we will be really tweaking it for these athletes with a high-performance emphasis leading into the Commonwealth Games,” said Mr Free.

The GAPS program has been designed as a legacy event to promote regional sports development at an international level and Mr Free is hopeful that it can continue beyond the Games.