FASANOC secretary general Lorraine Mar has claimed greater funding and competition is needed to help athletes ©FASANOC

The Fiji Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee secretary general Lorraine Mar believes the country's athletes need greater funding and more top level international competition to enhance their prospects at the Pacific Games.

Mar made the assertions in the build-up to this year's Games, which will take place in Samoa's capital city Apia from July 7 to 20.

Fiji have finished fourth on the overall medals table at the last three editions of the Games, stretching back to 2007.

New Caledonia and Tahiti have historically been the most successful nations at the Games, although Papua New Guinea topped the medal table when they hosted the most recent edition in 2015.

Mar claimed overnight success should not be expected, but she hopes Fiji will be in a strong position to challenge for the top spot in the region at the 2023 Games in the Solomon Islands.

She highlighted the example of Fiji's rugby sevens team at Rio 2016, where the men's squad clinched the country's first Olympic gold, as one that should be followed.

"We need the financial support to produce the goods," Mar told the Fiji Sun.

"A classic example is team Fiji's sevens rugby gold medal win in Rio.

"That team had what no other team or athlete in Fiji had - the best coach and the most resources.

"Another reason they were able to maintain such a high competitive level was because they were exposed to regular international competition.

"Although it might still have been a struggle for them compared to some of their opposition, they did have the financial support that others did not.

"We lack the financial resources, the physical infrastructure and our athletes don't get regular competition at the highest level."

Fiji expect to be represented by a team of more than 500 athletes and officials at Samoa 2019 ©ITG
Fiji expect to be represented by a team of more than 500 athletes and officials at Samoa 2019 ©ITG

Mar said that the majority of money being used to prepare Fiji's team for the Pacific Games was being provided by the Government, with funding then given directly to National Federations.

She stated the funding was largely given to sports with medal potential and questioned how smaller sports would be able to develop without further backing.

Mar highlighted efforts in the region to develop federations, such as the Oceania National Olympic Committee's Oce­ania Sports Education Programme, as a positive step to aid administrators, officials and coaches.

Fiji are reportedly expecting to send a team of 512 athletes and officials to Samoa for the Pacific Games.

A "hot-bedding" system is due to be employed, with athletes leaving immediately after their competitions have concluded to make room for those who will compete later.

Archery, athletics, badminton, basketball, 3x3 basketball, beach volleyball, boxing, cricket, football, golf, judo, lawn bowls, netball, powerlifting, rugby sevens, sailing, shooting and table tennis are among the sports which will be contested.

Rugby league nines, squash, swimming, taekwondo, tennis, touch rugby, triathlon, volleyball, weightlifting and the canoeing discipline va’a will also feature.