Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Hero’s welcome for Francis Kompaon in Goroka, Eastern Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea

Torchbearer Francis Kompaon displays the torch during the Beijing 2008 Paralympic torch relay in Beijing, capital of China, Sept. 6, 2008.

(Photo credit: Xinhua)

Francis Kompaon (centre) at a rousing welcome in Goroka.

Hero’s welcome

PARALYMPIC silver medallist Francis Kompaon was treated to a rousing hero’s home coming in Goroka yesterday after he touched down at the Goroka airport.
Staff of the National Sports Institute (NSI) and the University of Goroka (UOG) where Kompaon is a second year pre-service student, turned up at the airport in large numbers to receive him and his coach Peter Aglua.
Staff and students of UOG arranged a motorcade and took Kompaon and Aglua around the main streets of Goroka town before going to the campus.
At the campus, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Academic) Dr James Yoko told Kompaon that he had set a milestone for Papua New Guinea to better his achievement at the Olympic level.
“UoG is happy you made us proud by being the first to receive an Olympic silver medal,” Dr Yoko said.
He said the university would organise a formal gathering to comprise interested stakeholders to recognise the achievement of the disable athlete.
In a brief welcome luncheon at NSI, acting director Kaylie Martins said for Kompaon to train on grass track and go on to win silver on synthetic tracks was a milestone achievement.
She said it was the dividend for the dedication of coach Aglua, his support staff and Kompaon himself.
“Everyone was involved in one way or another towards getting Kompaon to achieve this milestone.
“He had been running on the grass track and to win a medal on synthetic track sends a message that despite of disabilities, dedication and commitments can pay off,” Martins said.
Kompaon said he was overjoyed when he finally knew that he had won a medal for his country.
He said whether he won gold, silver or bronze, it would not have mattered but he was overwhelmed because at least he won an Olympic medal for PNG.
“I already knew that I would win a medal because others were way behind the Australian (Heath Francis) and me.
“He was in lane seven and I was in lane three when we got to the finish. I celebrated wildly and that confused the Australian who thought I won gold,” he said.
He said he was the first person in the Pacific to win a silver medal at the Olympic level and described it as a great feeling.
His coach Aglua said Team PNG went as unknowns but were recognised after winning a medal in the T46 class 100m sprint and raising the PNG flag at the Bird’s Nest Stadium in Beijing.
“The win was not only for PNG but also for three-quarters of the black African nations, who did not win any medals at all at the Paralympic Games,” Aglua said.
Celebrations in Goroka are likely to continue for sometime this week before Kompaon is taken to his home province in East New Britain, where a bumper provincial celebration to be hosted by the ENB provincial government is planned.

Source: The National Newspaper [23rd September 2008]