History, tears and hope symbolise Pacific Games wheelchair runs

Photo: Pacific Games News Service

Three women took their mark on the starting line of Honiara’s National Stadium track Tuesday night, two of whom were Solomon Islanders, racing for the first time in front of their home crowd in the inaugural Pacific Games women’s 100m wheelchair run..

Anna Pipisega of New Caledonia and Solomon Islanders Noela Olo and Rose Lidia were those three women. The starting gun went off and the sprint to the finish line began.

Pipisega with a classification of T53/F55 crossed the finish line first in 25.23 seconds and secured a final placing percentage of 64.16, making it onto the podium for gold.

The stands also erupted into cheers as the inaugural Pacific Games men’s 100m wheelchair run took off at Honiara’s National Stadium on Tuesday night.

It was Pierre Fairbank of New Caledonia who crossed the finish line first with a time of 17.08 seconds, securing himself a place in history and a final placing percentage of 82.55 per cent against his T53 classification to claim the inaugural 100m wheelchair run gold at Sol2023.

Track

Australia’s Calab Law won the Sol2023 Pacific Games men’s 100m final on Tuesday evening with an impressive time of 10.40 seconds at Honiara’s National Stadium.

“It means a lot to come here and be able to run well,” Law told the Pacific Games News Service. “Four years is a long time, so we’ll see,” he added, when asked about whether he’d return to the next Pacific Games to defend his title.

In a sprint spectacle at the Sol2023 Pacific Games on Tuesday night, Australia’s Georgia Harris flashed through the women’s 100m final at Honiara’s National Stadium, clocking an impressive 11.70 seconds to secure gold.

Throughout the heats and semi-finals, the 20-year-old student from Brisbane had dominated, however Guam’s Regine Tugade-Watson had been expected to challenge for first place but ended up in third (11.92 seconds).

Meanwhile, Australian athlete Jack Lunn achieved a remarkable feat on his way to Sol2023 gold in the men’s 800m on Tuesday by smashing the Pacific Games record that had stood for 24 years.

The previous record of 1 minute, 49.54 seconds, set by Isireli Naikelekelevesi from Fiji in the 1999 Mini Games in Guam, has now been surpassed by Lunn’s exceptional performance, winning gold in 1:48.43.

Field

The host nation enjoyed a golden moment at the Sol2023 Pacific Games men’s shot-put ambulant competition at Honiara’s National Stadium on Tuesday, when Floyd Luangi Vari won gold in front of his home crowd. Vari threw a distance of 10.58 metres which secured a placing percentage of 96.09 percent based on his F40 classification and won him the gold medal at Sol2023.

The gold medallist said that participating came with challenges, which he hopes will change in the future, with some investment.

“I want to say that, for this sport in particular, I would like to see the government invest more in it so that it can grow. When I was training, I struggled with bus fares and it was a challenge to get to training, to have food because I had no money but especially the bus fare because every day, I had to come to training at the Solomon Islands Institute of Sport (SINIS) and it was quite challenging,” he told the Pacific Games News Service.

Fiji’s Deborah Bulai won gold in the women’s 4kg hammer throw at the Sol2023 Pacific Games on Tuesday at Honiara’s National Stadium.  Bulai’s best throw was 58.33 metres, comfortably ahead of the other competitors.

It was a tight contest for silver, claimed by New Zealand’s Elizabeth Hewitt who threw 53.79m, narrowly edging out Wallis and Futuna’s Aneymone Talalua, who settled for bronze with a best throw of 53.68m.

 Volleyball

Vanuatu’s women’s and Australia’s men’s volleyball teams made easy work of their opponents to win their opening matches at SIFF Academy.

Vanuatu, ranked 58th in world beach volleyball, kicked off their campaign with a convincing straight sets (2-0) victory over Tuvalu.

Vanuatu’s pairing of Sherysyn Toko, playing alongside Majabelle Lawac, told the Pacific Games News Service: “We are so happy! This is our first match and to get off with a win is just amazing. We have only played together the last two years and so far, things are coming into place. We look forward to the competition and we will do our best to defend our titles.”

Australia, ranked 13th in the world, also kicked off their campaign in scintillating fashion, beating New Caledonia in straight sets (2-0).

Pacific Games debutants Ben Hood and D’artagnan Potts said: “We are truly excited about competing at this Games and to get a win on our first time out will definitely calm the nerves – get it out of the way. The focus now will be on games ahead.”

Football

Hosts Solomon Islands will lock horns with New Caledonia in the men’s football gold medal match of the Sol2023 Pacific Games after winning their respective semi-final clashes before a jam-packed Lawson Tama Stadium on Tuesday.

Under the scotching Honiara heat and the watchful eyes of some 18,000 soccer fanatics, New Caledonia booked themselves a spot in Saturday’s grand finale thanks to a hard earned 1-0 victory over Vanuatu.

The closely contested match saw New Caledonia, 2019 Pacific Games runners-up seal their fate with a lone goal late on in the first stanza.

Despite Vanuatu’s efforts to pull a goal back after the break, Les Cagous held on for the victory.

New Caledonia Coach, Johann Sidaner said he was proud of his boys in sticking to their game plan and shutting down Vanuatu’s onslaught in the second half – ultimately securing them the victory.

He added that his team is prepared and are aiming to scoop gold in Saturday’s final.

Bodybuilding

Hosts Solomon Islands all but dominated the Sol2023 Pacific Games bodybuilding event at Maranatha Hall on Monday with an overwhelming 10 medals won – three of them gold.

After a great start to Sol2023 with its weightlifting team led by local lron lady, Jenly Tegu Wini, the host nation had somewhat hushed down on the medal tally.

However, that all changed at the single-day event of bodybuilding, with Solomon Islands athletes scooping 10 medals from the 13-event competition. Another three would have given the hosts a clean sweep medal haul in the event – the first major international bodybuilding competition to be held in the country.

Powerlifting

Nauru claimed two gold medals on the first day of powerlifting at the Sol2023 Pacific Games on Tuesday at Maranatha Hall.

Their golden haul came in the 84kg and 84 kg+ events, with Mesha’h Denuga’s total lift of 425kg in the 84kg and Bessie O’Brien’s 570kg lift in the 84 kg+.

Ao Morea of PNG added gold to their medal tally in the 67kg event with a total lift of 372.5 kg, and Samantha Gware did the same in the 57kg event with a total lift of 330kg.

Tahiti’s Juliet Vuzier claimed gold in the 47kg with a total lift of 240 kg, followed by Mihi’iti Malateste in the 52kg with a total lift of 235kg.

Ludivine Breymand of New Caledonia snatched gold in the 63kg event with a total lift of 422.5kg.

Kayak

Kayak athletes from Samoa, Tahiti and New Caledonia made history as the first to claim gold medals in this newly introduced water sport event at the Pacific Games at DC Park on Tuesday.

Iloha Eychenne of Tahiti claimed two golds, first in the women’s K1-500m and the second haul with teammate Sommer Nateahi in the K2-500m team event.

Samoa claimed silver in the women’s K2-500m team event, while New Caledonia secured bronze.

In the men’s K1-500m, Clifton Tuva’a of Samoa paddled away with gold, Nohoai’i Thu’au of Tahiti grabbed silver, and George Tutaka Andre from Cook Islands settled for bronze.

New Caledonia claimed gold in the men’s K2-500m final, with Tahiti taking home silver and host nation Solomon Islands making history with their first bronze medal in kayak.

Decathlon

Papua New Guinea’s Karo Iga won the Sol2023 Pacific Games men’s decathlon on Tuesday at Honiara’s National Stadium.

In Tuesday’s remaining five of the ten events, Iga came second in the 110m hurdles, fourth in the discus throw, second in pole vault, second in the javelin throw and third in the 1500m.

But, despite not coming first in any of Tuesday’s events, his points from day one and three second place finishes on day two saw him complete the decathlon with 6761 points, comfortably ahead of his rivals.

Tahiti’s Timona Poareu – who came first in the 100m hurdles, discus and pole vault on Tuesday – claimed silver with 6076 points while New Zealand’s Stephen Thorpe took home bronze with 5909 points.

Max Teuruaa from Cook Islands came fourth with a total of 5127 points, Tonga’s Maleselo Fufofuka came fifth with 4130 points, Solomon Islands’ Alfred Ilisia came sixth with 3954 points and in seventh place was Solomon Islands’ Elton Tata with 3306 points.

Taekwondo

Australia clinched four gold medals out of the eight weight divisions in the women’s taekwondo singles competitions at the Sol2023 Pacific Games on Tuesday while the host nation, with a fresh new team, claimed one silver and five bronze at the Aquatic Centre.

However, the standout battle of the day occurred in the women’s -53kg category, featuring Erika Jean Maetia, a newcomer from Solomon Islands, facing off against Tierra-lynn Chargualaf from Guam, the Samoa 2019 Pacific Games silver medallist.

To the crowd’s delight, Maetia drew first blood claiming the first round. The second round and third round saw an experienced Chargualaf narrowly come back to win first place.

Speaking to the Pacific Games News Service, Chargualaf said: “It was a very difficult fight, and she (Maetia) was a very impressive fighter. She was good at tiring me out and I had to be strategic about when to block and hit. “Winning the gold is an achievement for me and I’m glad to win it for my country. I believe this is my last competition and I will now focus on my career and making a living,” Chargualaf joked. 

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