Sola Power Indoor Throwing Facility Officially Opened
By Dave Crampton
The Philip 'Taffy' Jones Indoor Throwing Facility at the Sola Power Throwing Academy was officially opened in Lower Hutt on a calm sunny January 21 before 100 people aged seven to 65+.
The indoor throwing facility is basically a big shed in a horse paddock, that has a throwing pad and rubber matting backed by netting and canvas firmly hung from the ceiling. The outdoor paddock boasts two concrete throwing pads - one for shot put – with a ring of 25m, well beyond the world record of over 23m - and the other equipped with a mesh net for the hammer and discuss.
Despite being in a converted paddock, it is the only facility of its kind outside of Auckland - and enables athletes to train in all weathers all year round. The academy, which was visited by Valerie Adams in 2015, is named after founder and coach Shaka Sola, a former national representative for Samoa and a national shotput title holder between 2002-2006 and a multiple national discus titleholder.
Sola hopes the academy will produce the next Valerie Adams, and was pleased with the weather, the turnout, and the competition after the opening.
“It was very emotional to see how that went, and at the same time it was great to acknowledge a great man Phil ‘Taffy’ Jones – a coach, a mentor and a father figure to all of us,” he said. “ I want the place to forever grow on its own.”
The indoor throwing facility is named after the late Philip Jones, a taxi driver who was Sola’s former coach. The whole opening was livestreamed through facebook so the Jones family could be a part of the event.
“As throwers we are not the most popular people but we (also) want to train,” Sola said as he explained the reason for opening the academy.
Lower Hutt City Councillor Michael Ulich, who spoke at the opening, welcomed the new venue and said the council had offered support in getting the new training venue.
“The paddock wasn’t being used for anything,” he said. “(Shaka Sola) didn’t have anywhere to train - I think this is what is needed. It’s gone from strength to strength – I think it’s brilliant.”
Niko Ashton (7) who excelled at the discus, shot put, long jump, and the 60m/100m/200m events at the recent North Island Colgate Games – in other words, a possible promising inter-provincial athlete in coming years – was the first youngster to try the newly-opened facility.
After the opening, and a telegram from Jones’ family in Wales was read out, a Commonwealth Games qualifying meet was held in the outside area of the venue, which has a “grandstand” made up of 20 tyres that are just a few metres from the throwing area. Its not often spectators can get so close to competitors vying for Commonwealth Games times, but at the Sola Power Academy, they can. Photographers were even seen poking their cameras through the mesh net right beside the throwers.
There was also a food stall. “All the proceeds of the food stall will go to my holiday in the Cook Islands,” Sola said through the PA system during his running alternative commentary of the throwers attempting to qualify for the Commonwealth Games.
While qualifying times are tough, there were two 62m discus throws from Connor Bell (several metres further than Sola’s personal best), and Maddison-Lee Wesche managed two World Junior qualifying times in both shotput -a pb of 15.89 and then throwing 16.37 at the Potts Classic - and discus. Aodhan Hamilton, from Hamilton, set a para- NZ record in the F36 shotput with 9.93m, but hopes to knock off the 10m mark in competition this year, as he has done in training.
Of the locals, Nathaniel Sulupo, an U20 Oceania champion, managed 15.07m in the 7.26kg shot put at Cooks Classic, but 15.11m at Lower Hutt, and Zion Trigger- Feitele threw a personal best 16.45m in Lower Hutt with the 5kg implement – and will do even better as the year progresses.
Sola was delighted with the performances -as well he should be.
“We’ve had some personal bests, a world junior qualifier, an New Zealand record in the shot put by Aodhan Hamilton… it’s just fantastic to bring all these top athletes here to the Sola Power Throwing Academy and also inspiring whole lot of youngsters, and to show the community here how serious throwing is her and how far these things can be thrown.”
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Image 1. L-R Zion Trigger -Faitele and Tama Bartlett, with the new Sola Power shirts, with Shaka Sola in the background. ( credit Rowan Greig )
2 Nathaniel Sulupo prepares to throw the shot put ( credit Dave Crampton) _