After a few days of Commonwealth Games competition, let’s check-in with our Pacific athletes and see how they have fared so far in Birmingham.
Fiji 7s settles for Silver again
Rugby 7s was one of the most anticipated sports for this year’s Commonwealth Games with nearly all of the best teams from the World Rugby Sevens Series in the competition.
As predicted, the three day tournament was an absolute spectacular event with lots of crowd pleasing moments from the 7s players, as they showcase their rugby talents and skills.
Two time Olympic gold medallist Fiji was impressively good in the pool stages in both the men’s and women’s competitions, marking them as one of the favourites to win the tournament. The Fijians were on top of their game and created havoc for all their opponents right through to the final.
However, Fiji was met with a rude awakening when they met South Africa in the final. The Blitzbokkes were quick to pounce on every opportunity they had right from the get-go.
The Fijians looked shell-shocked as the South African onslaught continued throughout the game. South Africa scored try after try as Fiji’s gold medal hopes continued to crumble away.
Muller du Plessis helped himself to a brace of tries while JC Pretorious, Shaun Williams and Mfundo Ndhlovu dot one as well in what became a one-sided affair.
It was unusual to see Fiji completely prevented from launching a comeback. South Africa was too good on this occasion with a 31 – 7 victory.
Fiji also reached the final in the women’s category; however they were also outclassed by a fired-up Australian side that were looking to redeem themselves because they lost to Fiji earlier in the pool stages.
Captain Charlotte Caslick kept her team together as they hunted for a Commonwealth Games gold medal. A double from speedster Faith Nathan and scores from Madison Ashby and Maddison Levi saw Australia triumph 22-12.
Both South Africa and Australia were topping the current World Rugby Sevens Series points table so these wins should not come as a surprise to rugby enthusiasts in the Pacific and around the world.
Tuvalu beach volleyball exit games
Saaga Malosa and Ampex Isaac could be forgiven for not being too concerned by talk of the relevance of the Commonwealth – or these Games. They are more worried for the future of their nation.
The pair were defeated 21-10, 21-12 by England’s Javier and Joaquin Bello in the beach volleyball preliminary rounds into rather stark contrast.
Despite having to bow out of this year’s Commonwealth Games Malosa and Isaac remained proud of their efforts and were keen on returning home to Tuvalu, where there are more pressing issues to attend to.
Tuvalu’s biggest challenge is climate change, therefore preparing to participate in sports (especially beach volleyball) is not an easy task due to the effects of climate change and rise in sea level.
“We don’t really have a proper place to train, and all our beaches aren’t level, they slope and some of our beaches are getting smaller too,” said Isaac.
However the pair persevered through all the challenges they had to face in order to get to Birmingham.
“We are not used to playing in front of all these people, but we controlled our emotions well. We’ve only been playing together for a few months, but we wanted to play in the Commonwealth Games. This is a really important of us, representing our people and our small population. We aren’t just representing Tuvalu but the whole Pacific Islands”, added Isaac.
Samoa lifter Vaipava Ioane breaks into tears after his last-ever lift
Every story comes to an end and there is no way it can be avoided. Vaipava Ioane of Samoa knew it very well as he went for a lift of a massive 174kg in his third attempt at the Clean & Jerk round of Men’s 67kg Final. Although he failed in his attempt to bring home the gold medal, he had done enough to secure a silver medal for his country at the CWG 2022. This was not the first instance Vaipava Ioane won a medal, but it is definitely the last one.
The 34-year-old lifter announced his retirement and could not stop the rush of emotions , breaking into tears after his last-ever lift. The Samoan took off his shoes and left them on the platform indicating that he won’t wear them again. Vaipava Ioane was then seen wiping his tears that were slowly rolling down his cheeks. The lifter bowed to thank the crowd for their love and support and slowly walked off to the change room.
He returned for the medal ceremony and stood behind India’s Jeremy Lalrinnunga on the podium, looking lost in his thoughts. But Vaipava Ioane did not forget to congratulate the gold medal winner and took off the garland he had received and put it around Jeremy’s neck. The three winners then hugged each other to give the viewers a wholesome moment.
The champion weightlifter from Samoa finished his career with two Commonwealth Games medals. His first one came in the 2014 Glasgow Games when he secured the bronze medal in the Men’s 62kg final.
Toua eyeing a record-breaking sixth Olympic Games in Paris
Dika Toua, whose first appearance at the Commonwealth Games was 20 years ago in Manchester, came within one lift of winning her fourth Games medal at the age of 38, at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham.
Despite the disappointment of coming so close, the mother of two declared her intent to compete at the Olympic Games for a record sixth time in 2024.
No weightlifter has competed at the Olympics more than five times.
“I have no plans to retire and I aim to be in Paris in 2024. You can’t get rid of me yet – weightlifting is in my blood”, Toua said.
Her longevity is remarkable given that she was close to death in 2013, having contracted tuberculosis. She was taken to hospital in New Caledonia, where she was training at the Oceania Weightlifting Institute with her long-time coach Paul Coffa, and they happened to have the right medicine, which had just been introduced at that time.
“Despite everything, I just want to keep on going, to qualify for my sixth Olympic Games. I started very young and even when I do retire from competition, weightlifting will not get rid of me”, added Toua.
Dika Toua also experienced a tough time recently, as she lost a couple of her weightlifting mentors and officials due to Covid-19, however the champion weightlifter remains adamant for better days in terms of PNG’s weightlifting future.
“Sadly they all passed away with Covid. One was a former national coach, and we lost all three of our international referees. It’s a struggle, we need to rebuild, but we will get there. We hope to get new people qualified”, said Toua.
They hope to be wearing PNG uniforms again at Paris in two years’ time and will both prepare in Melbourne for the 2022 International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) World Championships in Colombia in December, the first Olympic qualifying event.
Davule takes down Mauritius boxer
Fiji boxer Jone Davule won the Mens round of 32 in the featherweight division, winning 3-2 against Niven Chemben of Mauritius.
This is Davule’s first event of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and he will advance to round two.
His next fight will be on Monday.
Fellow boxer Elia Rokobuli, will fight Abdul Wahib of Ghana in the Men’s Over 60kg-63.5kg – Light Welter division.