From Fiji Times Online (17 May 2010)
Former champion takes giant strides
by Sera Whippy
Passion and hard-work are great ingredients to making success stories. One such tale is national athletics coach Bola Tafo'ou.
From the distant island of Rotuma, Tafo'ou began his athletics career when he was at Laucala Bay Secondary School.
He specialised in the 400 metres and 800m middle-distance runs.
It was at the 1984 National Juicy Games that he set a new record in both the 400m and 800m junior grade. And then in 1986 he again set a new time in the 400m. He didn't participate in 1985 due to a chronic illness of sinus.
He later trained under the guidance of Samu Yavala and participated in the South Pacific Championships in 1985 which was held in Fiji.
However, his training and commitment to his love for athletics was hindered by the constant head-aches he was suffering through sinus.
Somehow, his determination and commitment to training was triggering head-splitting aches that was too much to handle He then left training to take up coaching.
This came naturally to Tafo'ou just as he felt at home on the track. He began his coaching career by first volunteering at schools.
In 1991-92, Tafo'ou trained schools in the Serua, Namosi and Beqa areas preparing them for the then Milo Games. In 1993 to 1998, he returned to Fiji to coach the likes of Atunaisa Veisa, Gabriel Matavola and Nigerian Seth Abhoy.
He was hired by the Savusavu Secondary as an assistant physical educator in 1998 where he discovered the many talents of the North.
Such athletes were, Mereoni Raluve and Jale Turagadamudamu who put a spin to track events in the late 1990s.
He also began developing athletes like Sera Tuinalase and helped out with athletics development in the Cakaudrove Province where he would accompany his protÚgÚs to the National Secondary School Finals.
In 2002, he was recruited by former National javelin rep, Albert Miller who offered him a position in the sports council.
He helped with the training of the Fiji team that were headed for the Melanesian Games in Papua New Guinea.
This was his first tour as a coach.
On his return he shifted to training primary school students.
It was at this stage that his gaze fell upon athletes like Marist Brothers speedster, Banuve Tabakaucoro, Saint Joseph's Sisilia Seavula, Elenoa Sailosi and Ana Tamani.
These young athletes were students at Stella Maris. They were his most valuable treasures which he had nurtured and trained and now the public is appreciating.
He trained national reps like Suva Grammar's, Paulini Korowaqa, Seleima Baleivesi, Laisa Vonowalu, Mereoni Raluve and again Sera Tuinalase.
Now he is a gym instructor and a sports officer under the umbrella of the Fiji Sports Council and holds office at the Hyundai Fitness Centre.
"We get a lot of people coming in to ask for training programs. Teachers from all over the country come for advice and we are always here to help," said Tafo'ou.
"We help with school programs," said Tafo'ou.
Some schools Tafo'ou has assisted are Coca-Cola girls champions Adi Cakobau School, Lelean and recently Napuka.
"We also have Marist Brothers High School students coming into the gym to train daily and we help them out with their programs," he said.
Tafo'ou, however, is saddened with the idea that many people have.
This is in essence to the public thinking that the Hyundai Fitness Centre is only for national reps.
"No, the training facility is open to everyone and this is what we are trying to change."
The centre is not only for athletes who want to improve their fitness levels or endurance capacities; it is also a place where the public invest in their lives by keeping fit and toning themselves.
"I never thought I would end up with this job. I guess it is basically because of my enthusiasm towards athletics that has got me this far," said Tafo'ou.
Tafoou is one of Fiji's greatest athletics asset and people acknowledge this by seeking his advice and constantly asking for his services.
Now at 41, Tafo'ou says he made the right decision and is very happy with it.
His satisfaction in his career has birthed some of Fiji's brilliant track runners and has made him the success that he is.
"The Coke Games is just a small meet. What I aim for when I train my athletes is to prepare for the South Pacific Games, the Commonwealth and eventually the Olympics."
He says the magic in coaching is to always listen and be open to new issues.
Tafo'ou for one liaises with Albert Miller, Henry Elder and Della Shaw when he drafts a training program.
He also sends his athletes to these three professionals to improve on their fitness, endurance and strength and more.
"The main factor is that athletes must be able to balance their lives. They must have discipline and respect for themselves and this will be a great contributing factor to enhancing their performances."