28 March 2017
The power of sport in society is undeniable, but if were in any doubt, the win by Venita Mailei at the 56th Australian Junior Championships this week highlighted how sport can help in the development of people. Airds High teacher, Samuel Rosete summed it up perfectly.
“It is phenomenal to see the growth of kids in sport. That is what it is all about. In the end, we got such a positive result today, not just for Venita but for the whole school community.”
“18 months ago, Pam May spotted Venita Mailei competing for Airds High at the South-west Schools regional athletics carnival; at that time her best was 10.66m in the shot put,” recalled Prior.
“She was extremely shy. It took a few months before she would talk to me,” Prior said. “But her commitment was tremendous, training three for four times a week and rarely missing a session.”
The improvement was amazing, last December she broke through winning the national all schools under-16 shot put title in Canberra with a putt of 14.18m, but the leadup to this week’s national championships had not gone smoothly.
“She rolled her ankle playing basketball and we were unsure she would be able to compete,” coach Prior said.
After a slow start in the under-17 shot put Australian championship she was equal second after three throws. But she had just one final effort.
“I told her she was in a flight here and you know how to win this event,” said Prior.
And she did win, improving 45 centimetres and winning the event by just 11 centimetres.
“This means a lot,” said Mailei, reflecting on her win.
When she was presented with the gold medal, she received the biggest cheer of the day from a large group of students and teachers from Airds High school which had travelled to the competition to support her.
“Nicole Tate, one of the other teachers suggested we should get a whole bunch of student along and it was about two weeks of planning but we got them all here - 22 student and four staff members,” said Samuel Rosete, a mathematics and PE teacher and Mailei’s year advisor.
“The whole school community is so proud of her. We have been right behind her in how she has handled herself in all the competitions she went in. When we found out she was coming here we pitched in and fund raised for her. But it is seeing how she has grown; she was a kid who lacked confidence in the last couple of years but to see where she was a year and a half ago to where she is today, it is phenomenal to see the growth of kids in sport. That is what it is all about. In the end we got such a positive result today, not just for her but for the whole school community. This is a good day for the school, great day for Venita and a great day for her mum.”
David Tarbotton and Ron Bendall for Athletics NSW
Image: Venita Mailei and a group of students from Airds High School (image courtesy of David Tarbotton)