Papua New Guinea Wins First Paralympic Medal!
Today Francis Kompaon created history for the Independent State of Papua New Guinea.
He won our first ever Paralympic medal in the history of our nation when he finished second behind Australia’s Heath Francis in the 100m final – and on the eve of our 33’rd Independence celebrations too!
Francis Kompaon claimed silver with a run that was just 0.05 of a second behind Heath’s time and began celebrating on the finish line – a scene that prompted Heath to think for a moment that he had been beaten in the gold medal race.
However, Francis was simply celebrating because he had won silver – a small reflection of his celebrations after he had qualified for the final.
He was beaming throughout the entire medal ceremony as the black, red, white and yellow flag of PNG was raised beside the Australian flag over the Bird’s Nest stadium.
The 22-year-old from Rabaul is a product of the Oceania Paralympic Committee’s talent development program. The program is partially funded by the Australian Paralympic Committee (APC) through its membership of the Oceania Paralympic Committee (OPC).
President of OPC Paul Bird, who is also the Assistant Chef de Mission of the Australian team in Beijing said of the milestone:
“This is a wonderful, historic result for PNG and for Francis and represents the start of something special for the region. The result shows that the development scheme is working and can only get better in the build-up to 2012 in London.”
There are only two athletes on the PNG Paralympic Team – Kompaon and a visually impaired sprinter who qualified thanks to a wild card. Kompaon’s coach, Peter Agula, said his charge had only been racing seriously for four years:
“This is history in the making for both abled and disabled Papua New Guineans taking part in the Olympic and Paralympic Games. We are very proud, and I’m a proud coach”.
Recently during the ground breaking of the new Chinese-funded sports stadium in Wewak, Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare made the announcement that any Papua New Guinean who wins a gold medal at the next Olympic Games in London will be the recipient of a K500,000 cash prize.
Sir Michael also promised a cash prize of K250,000 and K200,000 for the silver and bronze medallist respectively while stating, “It is about time we recognise sports in the country and offer cash rewards to outstanding Papua New Guineans in order to foster the growth and development of sporting talents in Papua New Guinea.
Well Sir Michael, you may have found your match – give Francis Kompaon another four years and he may just be our first gold medal winner.