FIJI GOVERNMENT-SPONSORED OLYMPICS TRAINING PROJECT IN U.S. HAS PROBLEMS

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (January 13, 1999 PACNEWS/INCL)---An ambitious government-sponsored program aimed at helping some of Fiji's elite athletes prepare for the 2000 Olympics has turned sour.

One of the six athletes sent to the United States for special training last year has refused to return after spending the Christmas holidays in Fiji, complaining about poor living and training conditions.

Isireli Naikelekelevesi has come out publicly with his complaints, a week after two others who were part of the trip were told they could not return to the U.S. because of discipline problems.

The Fiji government had sent the six track athletes to the U.S. last year to help them improve their medal-winning chances at the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

All six came back for the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Naikelekelevesi said he doesn't want to return because -- contrary to what the Sports Ministry has said about the athletes staying in college accommodation -- they are sharing a former Fiji resident's house, and living conditions are unhealthy.

He also claimed that training standards are poor, and that he has recorded better race times at home.

Last week, the government was informed that two other athletes could not return to the U.S. because of disciplinary problems, and they could not remain at the colleges at which they had been studying.. The Sports Ministry confirmed it had received the message.

Naikelekelevesi did not have any such problems. The three others who are in the clear, however, say they will return to continue with their training programs.

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