The Sport of Athletics is mourning the loss of Elanga Buala who passed away suddenly at her home in Lae On Thursday (07/01/21).
Along with Iammo Launa and Barbara Ingiro – Sapea, Buala was , in 1984 one of the first women to represent PNG at the Olympic Games From a beginning in Volleyball, Elanga made the transition to Athletics in 1981 when she won the Open Women’s 100m title at the National Championships in Mt Hagen Overall she won seven national titles – 100m (1981 & 1982), 200m (1982 & 1983) and the 400m (1982, 1983 & 1984), and won a total of 13 National Championship medals in her career at the top.
Elanga competed at the inaugural Mini South Pacific Games in Honiara in 1981, the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane in 1982; the Pacific Games and then the inaugural IAAF World Athletics Championships, held in Helsinki, Finland in 1983; and the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles It was in 1983 when she had her first taste of individual success, winning the gold medal in the 200m and 400m events in the South Pacific Games, in Apia, Samoa. She also won gold in the 4 x 400m Relay, silver in the 4 x 100m Relay and bronze in the 800m.
A great Games for Elanga, however 1984 was to be her crowning glory. She won the 100m at the inaugural North Queensland Games in Townsville, but saved her really special performances for the Los Angeles Olympic Games.Prior to the Games she competed in a warm-up meet in California at which she ran her fastest ever 100m time – 12.22 seconds which was a PNG National Record until Barbara Ingiro ran 12.19 ten days later during the Olympic Games .
In the Olympic Games themselves, Elanga ran 24.82 seconds in the 200m which was to remain as the National Record until 2006 when it was finally eclipsed by Mae Koime. (Today that time ranks 4th on the All Time Best Lists) The 400m race saw her establish another National record, 56.82 seconds which stood until Mary Unido broke it in the 1993 MSPG in Port Vila.
Thirty plus years after her last serious race, Elanga’s times stand up very well against the current runners and those who succeeded her.
Elanga and her teammate Barbara Ingiro-Sapea opened a new era in women’s sprinting in PNG.
In 2015 Elanga looked back on her start in the sport and what remained upmost in her memory was the strong support of her family, her coach, her village and her friends. They provided a solid foundation for the success that followed.