From its humble beginnings, the Arafura Games are now recognised as a leading international sporting competition for emerging athletes of the Asia Pacific region. Held every two years in Darwin, the capital of Australia's Northern Territory, the Games are billed as a meeting of 'sporting neighbours' and attract competitors from all parts of Australia, nations throughout the Asia Pacific and beyond.
The Arafura Games began in 1991 as the Arafura Sports Festival with 1500 participants from seven countries competing in 13 sports. By the time the Games were held in 2009, participation had doubled with athletes representing more than 40 nations, with competition in 27 sports. Over the years, tens of thousands of athletes, spectators, officials and volunteers have been involved.
Dragon Power's own Kevin Pheko and Jarred Rothwell left Cape Town yesterday afternoon for an 18 hour flight to Darwin, Australia where they will be competing in the Muaythai category on an internationally recognised level. Rothwell, weighing in at 75kg, has been training twice a day every day for the past two months in preparation for this competition. "We've been training as hard as we can," says Rothwell. "We have been doing extra grappling training and techniques with Sibak Winston Chong; I am excited to fight against the best in the world." Pheko, who previously took silver in the 2009 Arafura Games at 67kg, will be entering in a lower weight category at 63,5kg this year. "I've been training twice a day for the past six weeks," says Pheko. "In the 2009 Games I lost in the finals to Japan and won silver - my goal is to be back on that podium again."
Twenty sports will be entering the Games this year including athletics, basketball, boxing, lifesaving, table tennis and many more. The opening ceremony on 7th May 2011 is said to be packed with entertainment by Australia's most iconic performers and singing sensations. The Muaythai tournaments are scheduled for 9, 10 and 11 May and the Games will close on 14 May 2011.
We wish our boys all the luck as we send them off to become one step closer to their dreams. We believe in them and will be backing them all the way through the tournament!
Words and Pictures by Lisa Burnell