French connection: Oceanian island to award Youth Olympic spaces

Header image: New Caledonia at Mini Pacific Games 2017 in Vanuatu.

The World Archery Oceania Championships and continental qualification tournament for the Youth Olympic Games taking place in July 2018 are, perhaps strangely, being held at a club sanctioned by the French Archery Federation – an organisation firmly routed in Europe.

It’s because the competition – which is set to become one of Oceania’s largest on record – is taking place in New Caledonia, a collection of 24,000-square-kilometre islands east of Australia and due north of New Zealand.

New Caledonia is a French overseas territory, some 20,000 kilometres from the streets of Paris.

“All sports in New Caledonia are affilitiated to their respective French federations,” league treasurer Catherine Gougeon Clerte explained. The French federation communicates with members through the Archery League of New Caledonia, founded in 1986 and now boasting over 400 archers across 10 clubs.

Given the excellent Pacific weather, New Caledonian archers enjoy shooting outdoors all year round and regularly attend events across the continent. Over 60% of the membership is young people.

“With so many youth athletes in attendance from other countries, the Oceanian Championships is a perfect fit for New Caledonia,” said World Archery Oceania Development Agent Robert Turner.

Unfortunately, young New Caledonian archers and those from nearby – but still 4,000km away – French territory Tahiti can’t qualify directly for the Youth Olympic Games as they would have to enter as a representative of France. Nevertheless, the island-held tournament in the city of Paita will act as a springboard for two archers from Oceania to attend Buenos Aires.

Teams from Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Australia (which already has a female place), New Zealand and Papua New Guinea all have a shot at the spots – one available for boys and one for girls.

The Oceania places for the Youth Olympic Games will be awarded on 13 July.

The Oceania Championships and Youth Olympic Games continental qualifying tournament will be held in Paita, New Caledonia from 9 to 13 July 2018.