The Pacific Games is being held in Solomon Islands for the first time ever this year, and will welcome a new wave of talented athletes, and the return of Pacific veterans.
In weightlifting, champions Dika Toua, Morea Baru and Linda Pulsan will look at conquering yet another Pacific Games, although PNG face stiff competition from Samoa which will hope to continue its powerful showing from last year’s Commonwealth Games. Don Opeloge set two Commonwealth records and two Oceania records in the Men’s 102kg division in Melbourne recently, and also took out the best overall male lifter award at the Pacific Elite International tournament.
Fiji has a total of 18 karate athletes but will be looking to send only 10 of its best to the Games. However, hosts Solomon Islands have also prepared well as described by Karate Coach Selwyn Kuru; “We are aiming for medals. We do not want to miss a medal”. This is the sixth appearance for Karate in the Pacific Games since its first inclusion in 1995.
In beach volleyball, Sherysyn Toko and Miller Pata won bronze at Birmingham 2022 for Vanuatu but, Toko will now partner with young Majabelle Lawac. Known as ‘Tine and Bella’, the new pairing will be tough to beat, having just won the recent Australia Beach Volleyball Tournament in Coolangatta, Australia.
Arthur Ray Lavalou makes his return to the Pacific Games boxing ring and this time will hope to do better than his silver medal in the 92kg category from Apia 2019. About between Lavalou and reigning Commonwealth Games silver medallist, Ato Leau Plodzicki-Faoagali will be an anticipated clash in the upcoming games.
The PNG Lewas are the current Pacific Women’s football champions, having won the OFC Women Nations Cup in Suva in August 2022. Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Fiji will need excellent game-plans to counter Papua New Guinea.
In netball, based on recent performances, the Tonga Tala will be the team to beat. Tonga is 7th in the global rankings, so Fiji, Samoa, Cook Islands and PNG will have to produce something special to topple them.
After a difficult start, the games had to be postponed and Solomon Islands’ general election has been moved to next year to accommodate them, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare says he is proud to host the event, and that, “all preparations and planning are underpinned by one single word – legacy.
“It is also the single largest unifying event for the nation. The theme for the 2023 Pacific games comprising three simple words – challenge, celebrate, unite, which aptly describes Solomon Islands vision and hope that the games will continue to unify the nation”.
A Volunteers Guide was launched on March 2; currently 2500 volunteers have been employed under the games committee for the Games fortnight.
China and Australia are funding infrastructure, and the Australian Federal Police (ADF) will be coordinating with the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force to closely monitor the proceedings of the games, while U.S. authorities are conducting bombs sweeps to remove unexploded ordinance —a long-standing problem—before the Games start.
An earlier version of this article mistakenly stated that badminton would be played at the Pacific Games.