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Striding Back To Glory

Striding Back To Glory
Striders club runners hit the streets of Suva. Photo: Striders Athletics Club
July 15
11:00 2017

The Striders Athletics Club that once dominated Fiji and the Pacific’s middle and long distance running from the 1980s to the 1990s has re-established itself and is now affiliated with Athletics Fiji.

The backdrop of the recent Oceania Athletics Championships and Olympic Day Run provided a perfect inspiration for club members wanting to contribute to the rebuilding process, says club president Atma Maharaj.

Originated in 1981 the club has experienced a lot of cherished memories and great achievements for the past three decades of its existence.

Maharaj, who was responsible for coaching several of Fiji’s top runners in that era recalls the history on the formation of the club.

“Strider’s club was originally formed during the 1981 to 1982 season by Binesh Prasad, Semi Vuetibau and myself as a specialist middle and long-distance club,” he said.

“In that era, distance running was very popular. The Hash House Harriers cross country running group had a fairly strong cadre of distance runners.

“Similarly, the Dawn Breakers, was a running group that had a regular two-hour run every Saturday mornings starting at the USP gate.

“At that time, Binesh Prasad was running for the fledgling Nausori club, which had the likes of Tony Millard and Tony Compain.

Binesh Prasad with his recognition from FASANOC

Binesh Prasad with his recognition from FASANOC

“Semi Vuetibau had just finished fourth place in the Fiji Sun Lami Fun Run while I was running in the powerful Carpenters club as well as the Suva Athletics club.

“All the clubs in Fiji were based-around a particular locality. Striders broke the mindset and formed a club which drew its members throughout Fiji.”

Maharaj said most of the long distance secondary school runners- both boys and girls-used to come, train and race together with Striders club members.

Over the years, he says, the club had produced some prominent athletes namely, barefoot runner Rajendra Prasad, the first Indo-Fijian to represent Fiji in athletics, Shiri Chand “Mushroom”, Tony Millard, Randy Thaman, Paddy Ryan, Wayne Madden, Birendra Prasad and others.

Striders Athletics Club runners in the 70s

Striders Athletics Club runners in the 70s

 

FIERCE RIVALRY

 

The fierce rivalry between these top athletes had strengthened distance running in that era and there were quite a number of road races that included the “Meda Reki” Marathon which later became the Fiji International Marathon.

Within a few short years of its formation, the club started their own annual Fiji Sun Striders Road Series.

“Sun Striders Round Series was started in mid-1980 with the support of Fiji Sun publisher (Peter Lomas), Air New Zealand and other sponsors.

Back after 35 years

Back after 35 years

“This was a series of three road races over three weekends– 10kms, 5kms and the City Mile which attracted a lot of road runners and was largely responsible for identifying new talents, both male and female who became national champions and Pacific Games gold medallists.

“One such athlete was 1991 Sportsman of the Year, Davendra Prakash Singh, who came third in his first series and went onto win several South Pacific Games gold medals.

“The Striders club won the Round Ovalau Relay three-years in a row between 1984 to 1986 against a very formidable team from the West, and teams from Saint John’s Cawaci and Levuka Public School.

“Also, organised the very successful annual Hibiscus Mile, which brought the top men and women into an event watched by 30,000 people.

Striders Athletics Club logo

Striders Athletics Club logo

“With the support of Fiji Sun we used to publish training guides to be used by individuals throughout Fiji.  And as a result of the clubs ability to produce potential athletes it started to send its athletes to train and compete overseas in countries like Australia, New Zealand, USA, Kenya and England.

“The club continued to attract young talents like Isireli Naikelikelivesi into a much-regimented training programme, at the National Stadium, with long-term attachments overseas and provided the foundation on which Athletics Fiji was able to send full teams to the World Cross Championships, World Road Relay Championships, and World Race-Walking Championships.

“Its members dominated distance running in the Pacific for over 20 years.”

striders4

WAY FORWARD

 

Maharaj is excited to reunite with the club members and is anticipated to work with Athletics Fiji to bring back the dominance of long and middle distance running in the region.

“In discussions with Athletics Fiji leadership like Albert Miller, Selwyn Williams and Abhinesh Kumar of Jetsetters Club, the Striders club members are implored to use our experience and knowledge to resuscitate distance running.

“The club members are looking at an effective legacy from the reunion for re-establishment of the club that will provide a perfect way of Striders Club to give back and contribute to athletics, in a meaningful way. We hope to make  running a family event, with a broader participation from the community and provide a genuine way to reduce non-communicable diseases, while creating greater competition to make distance running a spectator attraction.
“For now the club will do some internal capacity building and resourcing and hopes to launch its programme in a few months’ time,” Maharaj added.

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