National throwing coach Gaston Hippolyte Sonkeng is looking to go to the grassroots in his bid to find more national athletes. Currently, there are only 14 Bruneians under his wing. BT/Yee Chun Leong
National throwing coach Gaston Hippolyte Sonkeng posing for a photo after yesterday's training session at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium. BT/Yee Chun Leong
Gaston Hippolyte Sonkeng wants to build up his arsenal in Brunei.
The Cameroonian took up the position of national throwing coach after arriving in the Sultanate in the last week of October.
The 40-year-old, who became an athletics coach in 2001, plied his trade at home and is the only coach to possess the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federation) Level V Coaching Course in the sub-region (Central Africa).
He was a former athlete himself and held the University Games records for the 1,500m (3min 56s) and 5,000m (15min 20s) events from 1998-2003.
The University Games is an annual high level competition which involves eight state and 20 private universities and is where 90 per cent of national athletes come from.
Sonkeng's last stop was working as the senior sport teacher at University of Yaounde II in Cameroon from the start of 2008 until last year, having won 16 medals - nine of them gold - at the University Games.
Auriole Dongmo, who holds the national record in shot put with a distance of 16.03m and is also a gold medallist in the event during the 2011 African Championships in Maputo, Mozambique, is one of the big names that he has coached.
There are currently 14 Bruneians under his wing since his arrival and he is hoping to expand the number to improve the standard of the sport in the country.
"We want to achieve greater perform- ances at the next Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in general, and particularly at the the 2019 edition which Brunei is hosting," said Sonkeng in an interview with The Brunei Times yesterday.
"As for now, it is quite difficult to find athletes.
"Those needed for the throwing events have to be bigger and taller, but I have trust in the youth and that is why I'm focused on the grassroots now.
"We are looking for under-20s for the time being. When I first arrived here there were no girls in the sport, so it is a good start that we have three now.
"We have five years left and I hope that I will be able to bring the country to the standard that is expected," continued Sonkeng after a training session at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas.
The national coach had his first task at the recently concluded 7th ASEAN Para Games in Myanmar and he felt that it was a very good experience since it was his first time being part of a contingent.
"It was a very exciting experience for me. The athletes with disabilities have shown they can achieve better (results) than the abled people," said Sonkeng.
"Our para-athletes are a bit aged now and I do hope that there will be new youths coming out to join.
"I'm looking to create a special training programme that will be able to accommodate both the abled and para athletes together. " continued the Cameroonian.
When asked on what was on the calendar for the sport, Sonkeng replied, "there are plenty of opportunities but we will only have those who are ready to compete."