Gymnastics in Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea is one of the newest Oceania countries to introduce Gymnastics.
GYMNASTICS IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA – THE STORY SO FAR….
Gymnastics Australia first visited Papua New Guinea to introduce the Oceania Gymnastics Development Plan in June 2016. PNG Sports Foundation, particularly High Performance Unit Director Aaron Alsop and Director Sport Operation and Development Peter Chalapan hosted this first gymnastics development visit to Port Moresby. They provided introductions, venue, mats and basic sports equipment for “come and try” sessions, school student clinics, teacher and coach training. Hundreds of students from nine Port Moresby schools took part in introductory gymnastics sessions and 15 teachers participated in fundamental movement gymnastics training. A team of parents, coaches from the high performance unit and volunteers participated in coach training and the scene was set for the establishment of PNG’s first gymnastics club – POM Gymnastics. Australian expat Karen Hansor was instrumental in laying the foundation for the evolution of gymnastics in Port Moresby. Karen had a background in gymnastics herself and worked tirelessly to recruit volunteers and co-ordinate classes to provide opportunities for children ranging in age from 1 – 13 years to learn the skills of the sport.
Subsequent gymnastics development visits hosted by POM Gymnastics and with the continued support of PNG Sports Foundation and High Performance Unit were conducted by Gymnastics Australia’s Brooke Kneebush in February and November 2017 to support the growing sport with clinics, coach education and judge training in anticipation of PNG’s first gymnastics competition.
One of the most exciting occurrences in Oceania Gymnastics history took place in 2017 when Harristown State High School in Toowoomba Queensland donated two full sets of Women’s Artistic and one full set of Men’s Artistic Gymnastics equipment along with mats, crashmats and training aids to PNG. POM Gymnastics volunteers staged a fundraising and sponsorship drive to fund the significant freight costs. This generous act facilitated by Glen Martin Head of Health and Phys Ed at Harristown High School has ensured a sustainable future for this popular and growing sport in PNG. To coincide with the donated equipment delivery, Gymnastics New South Wales conducted the LCT4PNG campaign collecting masses of leotards, crops and tracksuits to include in the equipment shipment. These items are simply not available for sale in PNG.
Interestingly, Gymnastics Australia has some history of interactions in Papua New Guinea:
- In 2011 Gymnastics Australia Board member Brennon Dowrick was special guest speaker in Port Moresby at the SP Sports Awards. Brennon represented Australia at two Olympic Games, three Commonwealth Games and seven World Championships. He was Australia’s first ever gymnastics Commonwealth Games Gold Medalist in 1990, a feat which he repeated in 1994. He was also Australia’s first Olympic Games finalist at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.
- Also in 2011 Laureen Tkacik and Trevor Dowdell were invited to conduct teacher training and student gymnastics clinics at Lihir International Primary School. Laureen and Trevor are gymnastics education experts from Queensland.
By 2018 the PNG Gymnastics Federation was formed, with gymnastics taking place in clubs and schools in PNG. President Hannah Bennet leads a team of local and expat board members to govern the federation which has been accepted for membership of PNG Olympic Committee (PNGOC) and The International Gymnastics Federation. They have developed a strategic plan and are working with the Oceania Gymnastics Union to develop policies and procedures to create a secure, sustainable future.
In 2019 PNGGF commenced an Australian Government funded Pacific Sport Partnerships project in partnership with Badminton PNG, Oceania Badminton and Gymnastics Australia. The inclusive programs aim to improve health related behaviours of People with Disabilities through increased participation in Badminton and Gymnastics and to improve disability inclusion.