Newly elected International Olympic Committee (IOC) Member from the Pacific nation of Papua New Guinea- Auvita Rapilla says her life’s journey has the hallmarks of divine intervention all along.
“God is good,” said Rapilla.
In an exclusive interview this devoted Catholic mother of two made startling revelations of her personal life to inspire from her humble upbringing.
She was one of eight new members elected at the 129th Session of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
I thought we had talked about almost everything there is to know about this Port Moresby born and bred ‘local girl’.
So like a salesman trying to seal the deal I posed this last question “tell me about your family, how many in your family?”
“My life is interesting because I was adopted,” she replied and then all of a sudden it hit her, she was looking past me and tears start to swell up in her eyes and roll down her face.
I didn’t have a handkerchief to offer and I know she didn’t want those nearby to notice her crying.
It was a delicate spot we had touched as she wiped the tears and said “I got to know my biological father and mother and I guess … some of those stories… stories untold…
I then asked at what age was she adopted.
“3 months (wiping her tears) and I always questioned why I was different until I got to know who my biological mother was and my biological father who I met later.
“My biological father and mother, they are my best friends but my adopted parents will always be my mum and dad because I have that special bond with them. It’s a blessing to have them all in my life now”.
The interview began focusing on her elevation into the prestigious IOC circle and then rounding of with the question about her spirituality.
“I’m glad you asked that question, everyday I seek and pray to God for strength, courage and direction before every decision and every action I take. If this is his will, I will do it. Putting God first in everything I do gives me comfort”
The PNGOC Secretary General come IOC Member attended St Josephs International Primary School, Marianville High School, Sogeri National High School and University of Papua New Guinea.
For her, apart from God and her parents, her immediate family husband Billy who’s in Rio with her and daughter Ceslie and son Clyde are the people she cherishes most.
She says the support from her family is second to none.
“I wouldn’t have come this far without the support of a very understanding husband”.
“My children were quite young when I had to do a lot of travelling and I must say I’m very fortunate to have a very supportive and understanding husband who has really supported me in my career, otherwise I wouldn’t be here.
“Its very important for any women to excel they need to have a stable life and have a very supportive partner and family.”
Husband Billy is proud of his wife’s election as a new IOC Member. The first Pacific Island woman for that matter.
“For me, I’m very proud to see her achieve this milestone,” said the tele-communications businessman and sometimes rugby coach.
“She is very passionate about her work, very committed and I play a supporting role.
“To put it in one word, its teamwork. Just understanding her role and she also understands mine and we’ve built that team spirit within the family.
“And I suppose its guided us in the way we become a team with our children. They are very proud of their mother, she’s a big role model to both of them.
“I think as husband and wife we can work this out to balance things up. We’re a team,” said Mr Rapilla.
For the new IOC Member from PNG is still trying to come to terms with her new status.
“It hasn’t quiet sunk in yet, I’m still trying to come to terms with the fact that I am now an IOC member. Its been an amazing experience the last couple of days having to sit in the 129th IOC Session and to be voted in as an IOC Member is such an incredible honour and truly humbling.”
She has learnt to take one step at a time because embarking on a career in sport she didn’t contemplate becoming an IOC Member. Every step opened new doors.
As the adage goes, ‘Journey of a thousand miles begins with a step’. “Sport has taken me to another level with gradual steps over the years. I didn’t think it would bring me this far and which is why I am just so overwhelmed.”
“I love my job. I started as a volunteer in the 1991 South Pacific Games and after I graduated from University in 1994, Sir John Dawanincura (current PNGOC President) who was Secretary General then offered me the job with the PNG Olympic Committee.
The 45 year-old from the Gulf Province graduated with a degree in Public Administration at the University of Papua New Guinea and Masters in Sport Organisation Management (MEMOS).
She recently completed the Master Educators training for the Oceania Sport Education Programme (OSEP) and describes it as a fantastic programme to upskill as many administrators and coaches in the region. I give credit to ONOC for initiating and developing this programme.
“We need to encourage more administrators, coaches, technical officials especially from the Pacific to step up and play a more active role internationally. As our athletes excel on the global stage so too must our officials”.
“We’ve got talented and fantastic athletes from the region and therefore strenthening the organisational capacity of National Federations is important to assist and ensure athletes excel, achieve success and inspire.”
“The turning point for me in my career was when I completed my Masters and was awarded the inaugural Alberto Madella award for the best research project in 2008. It made me realise that unless you take up the challenge, you will never know your potential. A lesson I’ve learnt to take every opportunity as it comes”.
Her new role means a lot more commitment on several fronts. She’s not only the Secretary General for PNGOC, she’s also in the executive boards of the Oceania National Olympic Committee (ONOC) and the Association of National Olympic Committee (ANOC).
“I’m aware of the responsibility that comes with this new role, representing the IOC and to promote the Olympic Movement in Papua New Guinea, Oceania and the movement globally.”
She acknowledged the support of PNG Olympic Committee led by her mentor Sir John Dawanicura, President, the Executive Board and staff saying she wouldn’t have done it without their support.
“I also want to express my gratitude to all the sportsmen and women, National Federations from PNG, the NOCs in Oceania, ONOC and IOC. Working with them and serving the Olympic movement has shaped my career to what I am today.”
“ I wish to acknowledge Dr Robin Mitchell, Kevan Gosper and fellow IOC members from Oceania for their support and guiding me on this new journey”.
This is her fourth Olympics, it started in 2004 in Athens, 2008 Beijing, 2012 London and now here in Rio 2016.
Her election is for eight years and she can continue to serve in the IOC until she’s 70, says Dr Mitchell.
For her background she’s done the hard yards being a volunteer during the 1991 South Pacific Games, then after her graduation from UPNG she became an admin officer, operations manager, deputy secretary general and eventually PNGOC Secretary General in 2011.
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