Tuesday, April 22, 2008


SECONDARY school athletes are gearing up for the Coca-Cola Light Games at the National Stadium.
Some have tasted success while others are still working their way to fame.
Jane Ratu has athletics is in her blood. She is the administration officer for the Fiji Amateur Athletics Association.
Born on September 9, 1959, Jane is from Nanukuloa in the province of Ra.
The eldest of six children, her parents were Luke Snow and Asena Bakani.
Her late father was a policeman and her mother is a retired nurse.
Like many others, Jane was brought up by her maternal grandparents. Her recollection of her childhood memories is full of sports and athletics.
"I used to play netball in primary school and it was only when I attended Form Four in Tonga that I concentrated on athletics," Jane said.
"When I was young, I wanted to become an athlete. I had the passion for it and it was something I liked doing.
"I had a fairly simple upbringing. My parents worked hard to provide us with a good life.
"I was brought up by my grandparents at Nausori. I was always interested in sports, especially athletics.
"It was something I wanted to do when I was young. I was so attached to my grandparents that everytime I went home to my parents I would miss them. I would always want to go back to them. I love them very much."
Jane attended Nausori District School before heading to the West to attend Lautoka Muslim Secondary School. Her father was stationed in Lautoka. In 1976, she left for school in Tonga.
"We were Latter-Day Saints and at that time there were no LDS school in Fiji. So children of LDS members were sent to Tonga for secondary school.
"I attended Liahona High School in Nuku'alofa from 1976 to 1979. I did not have a lot of difficulties growing up but I did learn a lot about being independent.
"When I went to boarding school, I got used to it and being raised by my grandparents, I was used to living without my parents. I was taught to live on my own and to be independent.
"My grandparents taught me a lot. I used to take part in sports when I was in primary school, mostly netball."
She used to run in the 100m, hurdles, 200m and relays.
Jane said her ability earned her the respect of her fellow athletes especially when she was always a step ahead of the rest.
"I was in Form Four and used to outrun the rest of the girls.
"It was something I felt good about because I knew I couldn't have accomplished that if I didn't train hard or commit myself.
"My personal coach that time was Mosese Neata, a Tongan and school teacher. There was another trainer who used to help out whenever Mosese was out.
"His name was Clarence Uyema from Japan. At that time, I was one of the best in athletics.
"For me personally, the feeling of knowing that I was able to outrun the Tongan girls was fulfilling, not only because I knew I was good in the sport but also because I was Fijian.
"I still keep in touch with friends from high school and they tell me my picture is still in the school library.
"My friends said that the principal said no one has ever beaten Fijian athletes in the school."
After completing high school, Jane was given the opportunity to further her education in the United States of America.
She took up dental studies and participated in an indoor dental training and her commitment to athletics dropped and it is something she regrets.
Jane returned to Fiji at the end of 1981 and worked at the Western Regional Library for a year and a half before deciding to look after her ailing grandmother.
"I looked after my grandmother until she died.
"It was a sad time in my life. I am now married and my husband is in the army.
"We have four children and they have my athletics genes. I used to be trainer for Sila Central and organise their inter-house competition. I regret not continuing with athletics when I went to the US but glad I was able to share my knowledge of athletics to upcoming runners.
"There is a lot of talent and potential in Fiji especially the athletes preparing for the Coca-Cola Games. The passion for athletics was always in me.
"It is something I live for and I share the passion with my children. I used to officiate at the Games."
In 2003, she was assistant manager to Joe Rodan for athletes to the South Pacific Games in Suva.
She was then asked to work for the association but prefers to be in the field working with athletes and helping them improve and achieve their dreams.
She said not being able to continue with athletics professionally did not stop her from helping others excel in athletics.
Bound by her passion and dedication to the sport, Jane's advice to students participating in the Coca-Cola Games this year is: "Don't let it end after the Coke Games. Continue to persevere in the sport.
"There is no limit to your achievement and nothing is impossible.
"If you want to explore the world, work hard."

Adapted from Fijitimes Online