Papua New Guinean boxer Thadius Katua is getting himself prepared for the toughest assignments of his life as he brushes up his skills for the Rio Olympic Games next month.
The 19-year-old Caterets Islander is currently in Baguio, Philippines training under the watchful eyes of coaches Joe Aufa and Allan Nicolson.
But for Katua, granted passage to the Olympic Games through a tripartite qualification, this is not on an unfamiliar trip for the young Bougainvillean. Tripartite qualifications are awarded to athletes who show promising potential in certain sports who miss out on qualification through mandated Olympic qualification events.
The Teachers Camp where the High Performance Training for Katua kicked off in earnest on Monday is the same environment where the same two men Aufa and Nickolson combined to steer the young man on a path to one of the amazing stories of a PNG athlete’s sporting achievements.
Several months ago Katua and his team-mates were in this Philippine city on a High Performance Training (HPT) camp for the 2015 Pacific Games in Port Moresby.
Katua eventually won a gold medal in the 60kg division contributing to Papua New Guinea boxing’s most impressive record of eight of the 13 gold medals on offer at the Pacific Games.
The teenager then boarded a flight to Apia, Samoa to create more sporting history by surprising many snatching the gold medal at the Youth Commonwealth Games beating his Ireland opponent in the final and boxers from more established countries on the way that impressive performance.
Katua’s Olympic journey actually started in April this year when together with fellow Pacific Games medallists Charles Keama (52kg), Andrew Aisaga (69kg) and Jonathan Keama (75kg), they attended the Oceania Asian qualifiers in Qian’an, China.
The disappointment of being seemingly “robbed” of a victory against his Iraqi opponent is still clear in Katua’s mind in what seemed the end of his Olympic dreams.
Therefore the opportunity that has been awarded to Katua when he was announced as the successful nominee for the tripartite spot a few weeks ago is something he wants to make the most of.
Katua’s run of success seems endless as he added another achievement to his sporting career by being chosen as the SP Junior Athlete of the Year.
Nicolson is not surprised that Katua is Rio bound as he had shown great work ethics in the six weeks the Australian and Aufa were preparing the PNG team for the Pacific Games last year.
After watching Katua in a sparring work-out against two Filipino boxers on Monday, just a couple of hours later following a 10-hour bus-ride from Manila, both coaches admit that while they do not have the luxury of a longer time to prepare their young boxer – they will have to do the best they can under the circumstances.
“After the sparring session that Katua had against quality opponents gives us a better idea of what we need to work on to have him prepared for Rio,” Aufa, who coached Jack Willie to the Beijing Olympics in 2004, said.
The training continues until July 24 when the team breaks camp to return to Port Moresby to join the rest of the small PNG contingent that is scheduled to fly out to Rio via Australia on July 27.
Nicolson who also returns home on July 24 re-joins the boxing team when they transit through Australia on their way to Brazil.