Back in history: Rodan leads Fiji team

Fiji's gold prospect Joe Rodan at his Carlton Brewery office in Walu Bay, Suva. Picture: FT FILE

For veteran athlete, Joe Rodan, leading the national team to the South Pacific Mini Games in Tonga was just another challenge.

In an article in The Fiji Times on August 19, 1989, this was not the first time leading the men’s athletic team to an international meet.

The 38-year-old Olympian had seen many athletic meets since 1967.

Rodan had brought honour to Fiji many times and his name was a household one.

Captaining the men’s athletic team to the South Pacific Games was no big deal for him as he had become well versed with this type of responsibilities on his shoulders.

This is what more than 10 years of competitive sports could do to someone.

One would no doubt grow accustomed to the expectation from your country.

The Carlton Brewery Ltd marketing manager said he was confident in taking his team to Tonga the following week. Rodan said the captain’s role was not new for him as he had led teams to other international meets.

“As far as captaining is concerned, there’s no challenge. It has always been natural for me to lead people.

“My job itself manages people and I find no difficulties in handling the athletes,” he shared.

He said although the Fiji athletes were young and lacked experience, they had the potential and discipline that would allow him to do his job well.

“The athletes have the instinct of a dedicated track runner but needed the inner stability before their events to be able to be their normal selves for the race.”

He added athletes who were new on the international scene tended to opt for fast running rather than their normal running stints in the track.

He stressed this point with middle distance athletes and said that the runner felt fitter when preparing to run with foreign athletes and this enhanced him to give all he had in the first two laps but bowed down when there was no more strength to take him on.

“There is a possibility that this might happen in Tonga with the younger ones.

“I’m talking from experience as I have been through all these.”

He said this was where the responsibility of the team coach came in.

“The athlete needs good encouraging talks before he runs to give him that extra self-confidence. Rodan was the longest serving athlete in Fiji, and was the country’s number one 400m athlete and was also the top contender for gold.

His appearance on the athletic scene dates back to 1967 when he was the Fiji Secondary School 400m and high-jump champion.

The former Marist Brothers High School whiz kid ran the tracks until 1971 when he dropped out from athletics. But in 1973, Viliame Saulekaleka encouraged him back on the tracks.

Since then, he said he never had any regrets.

Rodan had won 13 gold medals, nine silvers and one bronze since 1975. He had also represented Fiji in the two South Pacific Mini Games and the last two South Pacific Games since 1975 to 1989.

He was part of the national team to the Los Angeles Olympic Games and Seoul Games in 1988.

For the games in Tonga, he was out to defend his 400m and 4 x 100m title in 1989. When asked if he was planning to retire, he said he was still aiming to be in the game until his time was up, whenever that was.

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