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PROTRACK » GENERAL » The Vanuatu Express- Arnold Sorina's trip to Stawell

The Vanuatu Express- Arnold Sorina's trip to Stawell

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Written by Cameron Clayton
Athletics North Queensland Website
Saturday, 30 April 2011

On a journey few Oceania Athletes have been before, Olympic Scholarship holder, Athletics North QLD athlete and Vanuatu National 800m record holder Arnold Sorina ventured south to Melbourne along with new coach Cameron Clayton from his winter training base in Townsville.

Arnold's journey to Melbourne may not sound very unique to most but the reasons for this trip were what made it different. The 130th Stawell Gift was now in Arnold's revised training plans as a competition that would later prove vital in keeping this young star on track.Arnold's recent interruptions in training had left the athlete missing the 2011 Australian Open Nationals in Melbourne and Clayton believed this was a blessing in disguise.

The Commonwealth Games were huge for Arnold and for Vanuatu and I believe that this year’s World Championships can be bigger with the right ingredients” Clayton said. When Clayton had made a decision 8 weeks ago to compete at the gift himself as an athlete the opportunity to expose Sorina to such a trip proved too good to refuse.

“Fortunately not only did Yvonne Mullins (Oceania Executive director) approve my time out of North Queensland over the Easter break but she also supported my decision to expose Sorina to a competition such as Stawell”.

After looking at the timetable of events we decided that over the 4 day competition in which we were not ‘tapering’ for that we would enter Arnold into the 400, 550, 800 and 1600 metre events. With the possibility of not making the finals for some of these events and knowing that Day 4 might be left empty we also decided to enter him into the 3200m.

"Some thought this was a heavy workload but when you live, train, coach and socialise with your athlete you quickly learn what they are and aren’t capable of. We have a very honest relationship and have known each for sometime which allows us to modify training plans daily at times to succeed in what we want to achieve in."

The journey had us land in Melbourne a few days before competition begun as Arnold quickly familiarised to the weather which was much cooler than the 3 weeks of humid conditions he had been living and training in while in Townsville.

Our plans to continue our weekly Yoga tradition continued with a Bikram Yoga session completed on our first full day in Melbourne.Track training sessions continued on grass and the rare sight of 15mm spikes now dangerously pointed from the bottom of our shoes.

The excitement had begun.

The 3 hour journey to Stawell was with good company as live-in chef and masseuse Daxie Chavez and close friend Cameron Claridge joined us for the trip. Before settling in to our surroundings on the eve of the competition the boys knew what had and hadn’t been completed in our training and what to expect. What Arnold was less prepared for was the strict rules on passing competitors in an unfamiliar fashion like handicap races force you to do.

Arnold and I were the back-markers for our races and in different heats to one another which was handy as I wanted to be able to watch and analyse his performances in the various events.

His first event was the 400m on the 23rd and he started off with a ‘bang’ running 48.50 over 382m on the grass (had a 18m handicap from the scratch line) and having to run around a large field of competitors whilst doing so to win his heat. Noting that he ‘felt great’ with Champagne in hand which Heat winners are awarded when they win their heats the Stawell Media crew quickly came to Arnold and I wanting to know more about Vanuatu star now earning the nickname of the ‘Vanuatu-express’. We sent Arnold for his warm down and finished the media profile and interview for him knowing he had a big few days ahead of him.

Fortunately the several hundred dollars worth of products we had been supplied with to support Arnold and I with our training and competitions had already been put to good use thanks to Australian Sports Nutrition in Townsville. These products later proved to be vital in allowing us to recover to the best of our abilities.

Looking at the other Heat winners’ times, Arnold had been the slowest winner and had to wait until Day 4 to see how competitive he may be in his final.With the 550m event on the cards Arnold’s new-found confidence had him approach the race slightly different and unfortunately the result I expected occurred. The tactical move from 5th into 1st on the back straight proved to be too early a move later slowing to a 3rd place finish and not progressing to the final. Knowing it was only Day 2 and we had better things to achieve than Stawell success, further daily training was completed that evening.

Day 3 had both Arnold and I compete over the 800m with Arnold in the first heat of 7 and Cameron being in Heat 6. A great Heat was run which was well-timed and ran patiently as he slowly drew home the other competitors which started up to 70m in front of him. Arnold’s last 200m was so quick that anyone who didn’t know Arnold in crowd, now did. Stawell locals approached Arnold on the street; autographs were signed, photographs taken. Arnold had quickly become a crowd favourite amongst all.

Day 4 had Arnold start as one of the favourites for the 400m but for the 800m as the timetable on this day forced Arnold to run the 800m event only an hour after his 400m final. As previously discussed with Arnold the withdrawal from the 3200m was now approved by me due to his progression to finals with two events already.

Arnold executed the race plan in the 800m fantastically but unfortunately the 51.8 first lap later knocked him around fading in the last 200m from 4th to 9th. Between the 800 final and the 400m final, Arnold had little time to rest but certainly needed it as the Melbourne sun had come out and he had a lactic head/body-ache that had him making little sense to communicate with.

The 400m final quickly approached and getting Arnold to move from where he slept in the shade proved difficult as I attempted to cool his temperature down throwing pouring water in various areas of his body. The large Day 4 crowd had now poured in to watch his race and what would follow, as the famous $40k race was to occur after Arnold’s 400m final. Arnold was introduced to the crowd with excitement as he waved to the television crew now knowing he was on the start line and had to race whether he was ready or not. The 400m race was executed to plan and as known the first 150m couldn’t be hit as aggressively due to heaviness from both the competing and training loads already completed in our program. The ‘Vanuatu-express’ shocked onlookers coming from last to 2nd and running wide around competitors on multiple occasions covering his distance in a swift 46.7 seconds and almost snatching victory from race favourite and well-known 800m runner Simon Fitzpatrick. Simon later revealed in his post-race interview that he would be flying over to the USA to compete shortly after the competition.

Shocking not only himself, but the others around, Arnold’s Stawell campaign was now over with one more race in the works before Arnold attempts to break the National 1500m record in Cairns in the middle of May. Thank-you to all who made this very worthwhile trip possible.



Arnold Sorina: The 800m man Vanuatu Treats like Royalty

Posted by rtross
Runners Tribe
July 13, 2011

"WITNESSING Arnold Sorina walking down a street in his native Vanuatu, you could mistake him for royalty. There aren't too many people in the small South Pacific island nation that don't know him, or at least know of him.

Requests for high fives and handshakes or just shouts of ``hey Arnold'' follow him pretty much wherever he goes. It's also not unusual for Sorina to be offered land or housing, either, such is the adulation for this national hero thrust into stardom last year after becoming the first Vanuatu athlete to qualify for a semi-final of a Commonwealth Games event.

Yet there's no hint of ego from the quietly spoken, but quick-witted runner. It's because that life of adulation is not what the 23-year-old athlete reckons he wants or needs - not if he is going to fulfil his true potential when he realises his Olympic dream in London next year, anyway. To do that, the 800m specialist has turned to Townsville.

For the past three months and right up until the Games, Sorina will be based in the city, training under the watchful eye of coach and North Queensland Athletics development officer Cameron Clayton to hone his skills.

``It's a great place to prepare for my competitions,'' Sorina said.

``At home we don't have the coaches, that's the biggest failure, or these good facilities to run on a good synthetic track or just running on the road. At home you can't find a good road like this (pointing to Warburton St)."

"The weather as well It is just like Vanuatu, it is always warm and good conditions all the time, which is good for training and good for my body. I have been injured many times in the past because of the weather being too cold for me."

``Here I've had no injuries and (I have achieved some of) my best results.''

Sorina is able to take advantage of the North thanks to an International Olympic Committee Olympic Solidarity scholarship, which he takes extremely seriously, knowing it means plenty of people have extreme belief in him.

He desperately doesn't want to let any of them down. As Sorina effortlessly floated down the track at the Townsville Sports Reserve this week, though, it was clear he's not wasting it.

He's already had training stints in New Zealand and on the Gold Coast, but it's in Townsville that he is getting it done.

Already Vanuatu's 800m record holder, Sorina is slowly but surely building a reputation down under - most notably at this year's Stawell Gift when, starting from a back marker, he rocketed to a second-place finish.

Just last week he cruised to gold in the 800m at the Oceania Games in Samoa, and he also unofficially smashed his nation's 400m record when competing in the relay. Do the same in the individual event and he'll again qualify for the Olympics.

``There are so many improvements, especially in my 400s,'' he said when asked how being in Townsville had helped him.

``At the (Stawell Gift) where I have never run fast like that before and the other, the gold in the 800 in Samoa, I have never run a good comfortable 800 like that before.''

Clayton, who has formed a strong bond with Sorina since the pair met in a chance encounter in Brisbane two years ago, has no doubt the relaxed, but focused runner has unbelievable potential to unleash. While Sorina is unquestionably genetically gifted, his mentor said it was his willingness to push boundaries and thirst to learn that took him from the ``good'' category to the cusp of excellence.

``We went from the end of February saying he would do the Stawell Gift in mid-April, and just seeing how much he progressed in that limited time frame, if we get a smooth ride . . . there's no reason why he can't be getting way past his semi-finals berth at the Com Games and doing the same thing at the world and Olympic level,'' Clayton said. ``He just responds really well to various training loads and therefore improves very quickly.''

Remarkably Sorina - one of six children who was born on Vanuatu's beautiful island of Pentecost - only began competitively running six years ago. Within 12 months he was lining up in the heats of the 400m at the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games before his and his nation's crowning moment in Delhi last year.

``They wanted to give me lands and houses,'' Sorina said with a laugh about his reception when he returned from the Games.

``People just give me a high five I don't know who it is but I just do it.''

But all that adulation was never going to be enough to take Sorina from the Games' semis to the finals and maybe even a medal. For all their good intentions, Vanuatu athletics is not yet well-equipped enough to turn their athletes world-class.

So while living in the North may not command him the royal treatment, it is Townsville that can make him king."

With Thanks to the Townsville Bulletin and Athletics North Queensland.

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