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The man synonymous with speed coaches Am Samoa’s athletics squad

Peter Pulu
andrew@samoanews.com

Honiara, SOLOMON ISLANDS — The theme of the 2023 Pacific Games, “Challenge, Celebrate, Unite” has manifested itself in Team American Samoa’s athletics squad with the appointment of Papua New Guinea sprinting legend, Peter Pulu as national athletics coach.

When it comes to athletics in PNG, everyone knows Peter Pulu. In fact, the name Peter Pulu in PNG is synonymous with speed.

This is because he is the fastest man that country has ever produced.

This year marks two decades since Peter broke another PNG legendary sprinter Takale Tuna’s national 100m record of 10.60 seconds.

First in Flein, Germany where he recorded a time of 10.56 seconds, then three days later in Stuttgart, Germany he smashed that time with a run of 10.40 seconds.

No other PNG sprinter has come close to that time in the 20 years since.

He represented his country at the 1996 Summer Olympics, as well as two outdoor and four indoor World Championships, not to mention multiple medals on regional level.

Pulu became involved with the American Samoa Athletics Association as a result of a friendship forged when he was at the peak of his sprinting career, with American Samoan sprinter Stanley Iakopo.

According to Stanley, they have kept in touch with Peter over the years but it wasn’t until the 2022 Pacific Mini Games in Saipan that they met again face to face.

Peter was the coach of the PNG Para Athletes Team.

Stanley Tapuaialupe Iakopo was born and raised in American Samoa until he moved to Hawaii to continue his tertiary education, then worked there until he was offered a contract to work in Saipan, in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI).

It was in Saipan that he met his future wife and after getting married, they decided to settle there.

When the two former track rivals met again in Saipan, Stanley asked Peter if he could coach his children who were teenagers.

He offered Peter an attractive package which included free accommodation at his home among other incentives.

In May this year, Peter traveled to Saipan as a personal development coach for the Iakopo family, with support from Australia-based Bougainvillean Tanya Michoff.

American Samoa Athletics Association President Don Fuimaono recruited Pulu after seeing him coaching and developing junior athletes in Saipan.

 “He has been training our sprinters for a while now and after considerable pleading, he has agreed to continue as our sprinting coach at the Solomon Islands Pacific Games,” Fuimaono said.

In an exclusive interview with Peter Pulu, he stated that he had been appointed as coach for the PNG track team for this year’s Pacific Games, but he withdrew because he wanted to somehow develop some unknown athletes and raise the standard of athletics in other Pacific countries.

 “It cannot be a race between PNG and Fiji and the usual sprinting powerhouses,” the former champion pointed out. “As a former Pacific champion, I feel it is time to give back something not only to PNG but also to other Pacific countries. And I chose American Samoa because they have always performed poorly in athletics and they always just attend to make up numbers.”

He explained that his current appointment is to develop young up-and-coming athletes to understand the importance of knowing the basic stretches and warm up tactics, the right diet and other factors which must be considered like wind direction and so forth.

 “We must also understand that it takes time to develop good competitive track athletes unless there are some who are blessed with exceptional speed,” Pulu stated.

He pointed out that while the current American Samoa sprinters did not medal in the Solomon Islands Pacific Games, they registered their personal best and one thing is certain, they will improve as time progresses.

Pulu also pointed out that there must be athletic meets so that gifted athletes can be identified and developed.

 “I understand there has been no athletics in high school’s sports curriculum in American Samoa for many years now,” said the PNG sprinting legend. “That is very sad because we cannot develop the younger generations of athletes in American Samoa if there are no athletics in high schools.”

He urged the Department of Education to rekindle athletics in high schools.

 “What’s the use of a National Athletics Association if there are athletics in American Samoa?” Pulu asked. “I urge the ASDOE and ASNOC to re-establish athletics in schools and form clubs for older athletes.”

 “As this year’s Games theme states, ‘Challenge, Celebrate, Unite,’ I believe my appointment with ASNOC has fulfilled the last part of the theme,” Pulu stated. “Because we challenged each other when we were competing with mutual respect, we celebrated our achievements and now we are united for the benefit of the next generations of athletes and for athletics in the Pacific as a whole.”

This Pacific Games report has been made possible by the generous sponsorship of Paramount Builders, Inc. and ASNOC.