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PNG dethrones French-trained New Caledonia

WHEN the curtains came down on the 2015 Pacific Games in Port Moresby, there was more to celebrate than just Papua New Guinea’s landslide victory on the medal table. The host country dethroned New Caledonia, champion of the 2011 event on home soil, in spectacular form, winning 88 gold, 66 silver and 60 bronze medals in 28 sports and stamped itself as the region’s leader for the bid on the world stage.

On the back of some unforgettable performances, including the record seven-gold haul by veteran swim king Ryan Pini, PNG turned the spotlight to the Commonwealth Games. As the people celebrated the victory and the success of their biggest regional event that cost them 1.2billion kina ($A610m), Governor General Sir Michael Ogio announced that PNG would bid to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games.

“Can Papua New Guinea host a Commonwealth Games?” he asked the crowd at a packed Sir John Guise Stadium. To cheering spectators, he said “Papua New Guinea must bid to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games here in Port Moresby, and at venues around the country”.

Australia-based Pini led PNG’s quest for gold and had a stellar end to his illustrious Games career, taking out the men’s 50 and 100m backstroke, men’s 50 and 100m butterfly, the 100m freestyle, 50m relay and the 1500m. “PNG should feel incredibly proud of all the efforts. It has been one of the best Games ever,” said the former Olympian, the only PNG athlete to have reached the Olympic final, swimming against Competed against Michael Phelps in the 2008 Beijing event. Pini was named best male athlete and voted by his peers to serve on the executive board of the Pacific Games Council for the next four years.

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