Tahiti sweeps gold in volleyball, Vanuatu’s first gold in table tennis

Photo: Lawrence Ale/Pacific Games News Service

Tahiti’s men’s volleyball team emerged victorious, securing the Sol2023 Pacific Games gold medal by defeating Papua New Guinea 3-0 (25-16, 25-17, 25-18) at a packed Friendship Hall on Saturday.

Reflecting on their journey, Tahiti’s coach said: “We are very happy about what we’ve accomplished. Despite losing to PNG in the pool game, we dedicated ourselves to rigorous preparation. From 4am this morning, we put all our practice to the test to overcome our weaknesses and triumph over Team PNG”.

In the women’s volleyball competition, Tahiti secured another gold medal by unseating reigning champions New Caledonia 3-1 (25-18, 25-23, 17-25, 25-21) in a closely contested match.

Basketball

Fiji’s men’s basketball team defeated Guam 51-47 to claim gold in a thrilling medal match at the Sol2023 Pacific Games at Honiara’s Friendship Hall on Saturday.

Fiji’s 22-year-old rising star Filimone Waqubaca said: “ To come this far is not an easy task, competing against the defending champions Guam. They’re a strong great team, and we had to go out there and do our best to win, and we did.”

In a nail-biting contest for women’s gold, Tahiti beat Cook Islands 53-46.

Tahiti captain Herehau Eleonor Teissier said: “I’m very happy to win this medal. It wasn’t easy, there were a lot of tough games, but I want to thank everyone behind us for making this possible”.

The contests ended an exciting week of basketball action at Friendship Hall. The focus now switches to Basketball 3×3, which will take place from Wednesday 29 November to Saturday 2 December at SIFF Academy.

Rugby 7s

Fiji defended their gold medals in both men’s and women’s rugby 7s competitions on Saturday night, securing two medals. Grangeon De Villele of New Caledonia claimed 13 golds in swimming.

The Fijian men’s team delivered a spectacular performance at the National Stadium in Honiara in their 19-5 victory over Samoa in the gold medal match, while Tonga took the bronze by convincingly defeating Papua New Guinea 19-7.

Fiji’s Captain Suliano Volivolituevei, who led by example by scoring the first try of the match, said, “Firstly, I want to thank the Lord. I was part of the team in 2019 where we won gold, so I urged the boys that we had to defend our title.”

Women’s dominance was also seen in Fiji. The Fijian girls defeated Papua New Guinea 17-7. After the match, Fijian veteran Lavenia Tinai praised her team’s progress: “These are my third Pacific Games, and seeing how far our team has come in this tournament, especially since we consist mainly of new players, is very rewarding for me,” she told the Pacific Games News Service.

Swimming

In swimming, New Caledonia and Tahiti claimed all the available medals in the open water swimming races at the Sol2023 Pacific Games in DC Park on Saturday, with a large crowd supporting the swimmers despite the light rain.

In the women’s 5 km open water race, Lara Grangeon De Villele of New Caledonia won her twelfth gold medal of the Games, completing the grueling race in 1 hour, 4 minutes, and 26.37 seconds. Her compatriot Maiana Flament (1:06:00.64) followed to take the silver, less than a second ahead of Lili Paillisse of Tahiti (1:06:01.32).

In a closely contested men’s 5 km open water race, Nael Roux of Tahiti won gold (his third in the Games), setting a new Pacific Games record of 58 minutes and 39.88 seconds, just ahead of John William Dabin of New Caledonia (58:46.43). Enzo Costa-Lacombe of Tahiti followed just three seconds later to claim the bronze (58:49.98).

In the mixed 4 x 1.25 km open water relay, New Caledonia (Grangeon De Villele, Flament, Dabin, and Loann Cayuela) comfortably took the gold with a time of 1:06:46.53, and Tahiti (Paillisse, Deotille Videau, Roux, and Costa-Lacombe) took the silver, almost 10 minutes behind them (1:16:04.17). No bronze medal was awarded, as the other participating teams, Palau and the Solomon Islands, did not finish within the time limit.

In this way, Grangeon De Villele of New Caledonia concludes her historic participation in the Pacific Games with 13 gold medals in swimming after the open water races.

Golf

New Caledonia clinched three gold medals as the Sol2023 Pacific Games golf events concluded at Honiara Golf Course on Saturday.

But the story of the day came in the women’s singles event, where 16-year-old Tongan sensation Alexis Vakasiuola, in her debut appearance at the Pacific Games, overcame stiff competition from New Caledonia and Tahiti to claim gold.

The joyful Arizona High School student, who began playing golf at the age of six and displayed remarkable determination over the four days of competition, dedicated her victory to the people of Tonga. 

“I feel great winning gold for my country in my first Pacific Games,” she told the Pacific Games News Service. “I just want to thank the people of Tonga for all their support. I miss them so much, and I love them.”

Windsurfing

Men’s windsurfing and women’s dinghy sailing wrapped up at DC Park on Saturday with New Caledonia claiming three gold medals in the former, and Australia two in the latter.

New Caledonia’s Samuel Launay and Laurent Cali each won gold in their individual events and also in the team event.

Launay managed to see off competition from Australia and Fiji to win gold in the men’s lightweight sailboard. Lachlan Vize of Australia claimed silver while Fiji’s Andrew Rhodes settled for bronze.

Cali claimed gold in the men’s heavyweight sailboard. Earning the silver medal was Tahitian Teiva Veronique, while Scott O’Connor of Fiji won a bronze to complete a double bronze for Fiji in the men’s sailboard events.

New Caledonia however made it triple gold in sailing by being overall winners in the men’s team event. Gilles Le Chevalier De Preville and Veronique of Tahiti won silver while Australians Vize and Jarrod Jones settled for bronze.

In the women’s one person dinghy individual event it was a double gold victory for Australia. Evie Saunders won gold, overcoming strong competition from Fiji’s Sophia Morgan who won silver, while Vaimooia Ripley of Samoa squeezed into the bronze position by winning the final race Saturday.

The Australian pair of Saunders and Ellen Sampson then claimed gold in the women’s one person dinghy team event.  Morgan and Nelle Leenders made it two silver medals for Fiji, while Samoa claimed double bronze with Ripley and teammate Elizabeth Rasch coming in third place.

Table tennis

Meanwhile, Anolyn Lulu and Priscilla Tommy, champions of Vanuatu’s women’s table tennis and gold medallists at the Samoa 2019 Pacific Games, made history once again by clinching gold at the Sol2023 Pacific Games on Saturday, this time delivering Vanuatu’s first gold of the Games through a decisive 3-0 victory against a promising Tahitian team, comprised of twin sisters, Keala and Kelly Tehahetua.

Reflecting on their historic win at HCC Arena, Lulu told the Pacific Games News Service: “We feel so proud. It has been really hard for us, and we’ve been fighting from day one of the competitions. We felt a bit low when we lost the gold in the teams’ competition earlier in the week, but we had to come back from that.

“Winning this gold is dedicated to our families and the whole of Vanuatu. It’s our first gold medal at the Sol2023 Pacific Games in Honiara and we’re proud we could deliver that for our country.”

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