Games test for teen who didn't know she could run fast
BEFORE discovering a life of opportunity in Ipswich, Miriam Peni didn't know she could run so fast.
She's now about to represent her new school, club and city while competing for her country of birth at the Pacific Games.
The popular Ipswich Girls' Grammar School student from Papua New Guinea possesses as much personality as potential.
However, she has modestly gone about her business improving her times at the Ipswich and District Athletics Club and at IGGS.
Under the watchful eye of tireless Ipswich coach Vic Pascoe, Peni has advanced from Little Athletics to becoming a Commonwealth Games prospect.
Next month's Pacific Games in Port Moresby provide an important stepping stone, with 24 countries participating in 28 sports.
"It's very exciting but I'm getting nervous as well,'' said the 16-year-old, who is living at Leichhardt with her family.
"I'm very proud.
"My family is going to be there. Everyone who I know will be supporting me.''
After winning two gold and a bronze medal in under-18 and open competition at last month's Oceania championships, Peni is about to compete in the 100m and 200m, and possibly the 4x100 relay.
"I never really knew that I was good at athletics,'' she said.
"I tried out Little A's and enjoyed it.
"I was not that sporty (in PNG).''
The sprinter achieved two personal bests at the Gold Coast last weekend while working on her relay baton changes.
Peni has been training with Pascoe and elite Ipswich sprinters like Larissa Chambers, building up her stamina and competitive edge.
"All credit goes to Vic especially,'' she said.
"He's helped me, given me new techniques and polishing up on my little mistakes and getting me into competition.''
Peni has been in Australia for nearly four years having grown up in the East New Britain Province in PNG.
"Australia has given many many opportunities,'' she said, enjoying her new life with mother Nola, father Jack and younger brother Joshua.
Her appreciation of what she's been given in Ipswich and particularly at IGGS shines through her polite and welcoming manner.
"Making new friends,'' she said when asked what she likes the most in her new environment.
"Ipswich Girls' Grammar have been very supportive letting me have a few days off school to go to competitions.''
But it's not only in athletics where Peni is looking ahead. She's already focused on university.
"I'd like to do something on environmental management or environmental science,'' the year 10 student said.
"In the future, many of the resources that we have now are going to be very limited so I'd like to help. Put my effort into that.''
Peni heads to PNG on July 3 to complete her preparations with the PNG team. She starts her competition on July 13.
Pascoe has been behind Peni all the way, sharing information and video with the PNG athletics coach.
It's become a journey in a hurry for an ever-smiling Ipswich athlete.
Rising Talent to Watch
- Born: PNG. Moved to Australia four years ago.
- Favourite event: 100m.
- Personal bests: 12.26s in 100m; 25.21s in 200m.
- Other sports enjoy: Touch football for school and Ipswich association - "It uses a lot of speed and that's one of my strengths''.
- Biggest supporters: Parents Jack and Nola, coach Vic Pascoe, Ipswich Girls' Grammar School.
- Favourite music: Pop and classic.
- Most enjoyable part of athletics: "Meeting new people and being able to challenge yourself''.
- Toughest part: "When the conditions aren't right''.