Pacific Games highlights

Photo: Pacific Games News Service

New Caledonia leads the medal tally at the 2023 Pacific Games in Solomon Islands with 17 gold medals, and 47 medals in total.

Australia is currently in second place with 12 gold medals, with Samoa in third with eight golds.

Some of the most recent highlights follow.

Swimming

There was another full house at Honiara’s Aquatic Centre on day two of swimming at the Sol2023 Pacific Games, which featured eight events with 15 preliminary heats plus eight finals on Tuesday.

In the first final of the night, Tasi Limtiaco of Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) moved two steps closer to his triple-gold goal after winning the men’s 50m breaststroke with a time of 29.17 seconds. Micah Masei from American Samoa (29.48) finished second and New Caledonia’s Alexandre Gane (29.60) finished third.

Before Sol2023, FSM had never won a medal in swimming at a Pacific Games and now they have two golds, courtesy of Limtiaco.

The women’s 50m breaststroke saw another rare change in gold medallists with Mary Connolly, one of only two swimmers from Cook Islands at this Games, claim victory with a time of 33.21 seconds, while Fijian teenager Kelera Mudunasuoko (33.42) picked up silver. In another turn of events Georgia-Leigh Vele (34.75) from Papua New Guinea (PNG) made the podium for bronze, making this the only event of the night where New Caledonia did not win a medal.

Connolly, also a Pacific Games debutant, expressed her delight that her first medal of Sol2023 is gold. She said: “I was trying to take a Games a medal home for Cook Islands and I’m very happy that it’s a gold, especially since the competitors were so strong.”

Chloe Ameara, Vanuatu’s first ever female swimmer at the Pacific Games also raced in the 50m breaststroke and the 50m backstroke in the preliminary heats. She did not make the podium but told the Pacific Games News Service that she has learnt from those experiences.

 In the men’s 200m individual medley, John-William Dabin of New Caledonia swam the winning time of 2 minutes and 3.81 seconds, followed in second place by teammate Alexandre Gane with a time of 2:09.33. Cook Islands’ Wesley Roberts scooped his second medal of the Games by claiming bronze with a time of 2:09.81.

IIn the women’s 200m individual medley, Lara Grangeon-De-Villele comfortably swam the winning time of 2 minutes and 20.06 seconds to secure gold. In second place was Deotille Videau of Tahiti with a time of 2:28.40. Maiana Flament (2:29.67) from New Caledonia finished third.

Grangeon-De-Villele (NCL) dominated the pool again on day two picking up another two gold medals bringing her individual total up to four gold so far at Sol2023.

In the men’s 50m backstroke, Tahiti’s Keha Desbordes claimed gold in 26.20 seconds while New Caledonia’s Ethan Dumesnil (26.70) added the silver to his Sol2023 medal collection and fellow Tahitian Teiva Gehin (26.93) finished with bronze.

The women’s 50m backstroke saw New Caledonia’s Malou Douillard pick up her first gold of the night in 30.74 seconds before she went on to win another gold in the women’s 4x200m freestyle relay. Fiji’s McCutcheon (31.07), who missed out on a bronze medal in the women’s 50m breaststroke due to a disqualification, picked up silver medal and Tahiti’s Deotille Videau (31.59) claimed bronze, bringing her day two medal count to three.

Like day one, the night ended with the relays. This time the swimmers took to the pool for the 4x200m freestyle relay, which New Caledonia again dominated and won gold in across both men and women.

In the men’s 4x200m freestyle, New Caledonia won in 7 minutes and 38.62 seconds. Tahiti (8:02.27) maintained their position on the podium for silver in the men’s relays and Northern Mariana Islands (8:16.38) secured bronze.

In the women’s 4x200m freestyle, the order of medallists replicated day one’s 4x100m, with New Caledonia (8:41.52) securing gold, Tahiti (9:13.24) silver, and Fiji (9:18.98) bronze.

Football

Despite having their goalkeeper Madison Tenifa sent off five minutes into their first match at the Sol2023 Pacific Games women’s football tournament, Tonga managed to secure a 2-2 draw with Tahiti at Lawson Tama on Tuesday.

Following Tenifa’s dismissal for denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity, Tahiti took control of the first half with goals to Kiani Wong and Kohai Mai ensuring a 2-0 lead at the break.

But Tonga staged a remarkable comeback in the very last minute of the match, as Ana Polivili scored two goals in quick succession to force a draw.

In the day’s other women’s match, Fiji secured a hard-fought 3-2 victory against Vanuatu. Cema Nasau ignited the scoreboard with the opening goal 25 minutes in, setting the tone for Fiji’s offensive play.

Their momentum continued as Adi Litia Bakaniceva found the back of the net in the 33rd minute, extending Fiji’s lead to 2-0 at the break

Vanuatu’s fightback began in the 68th minute through Leimata Simon, before Emilia Taravaki added an equaliser. However, the match’s dramatic conclusion saw Fiji’s Luisa Tamanitoakula convert a penalty in added time, sealing the win.

Fiji and Tahiti played out a 0-0 draw in their group C match of the Sol2023 Pacific Games at SIFF Academy on Tuesday.

Meanwhile it was an entertaining and equally contested match with a shared amount of chances, but both teams lacked the finishing touches throughout.

With Fiji now awaiting the result of Tahiti’s next match with Northern Mariana Islands, Sherman added: “The scenario now is that I believe Tahiti will need to score more than 10 goals if they are to progress and now Fiji have to wait for that outcome of the game”.

Fiji were down to 10 men in the second half after Tevita Waranaivalu received his second yellow card with four minutes remaining on the clock.

Tahiti however couldn’t capitalise on the extra man advantage and will be hoping to score at least 11 goals in their next match for a chance of reaching the semi-finals.

In the day’s earlier match, Cook Islands secured a hard-fought 3-2 victory against Tonga to claim their first win in Pool A.

Wednesday is a rest day for football, but the men’s action will continue on Thursday at Lawson Tama, with PNG facing Vanuatu at 12pm followed by American Samoa v Solomon Islands at 3pm

Volleyball

The fourth day of the Sol2023 Pacific Games volleyball tournament at Honiara’s Friendship Hall featured exciting match-ups in both men’s and women’s, showcasing intense competition among the participating countries.

In the men’s volleyball competition, Kiribati faced off against New Caledonia in their third pool game. New Caledonia secured a 3-1 victory, marking their second win. Conversely, Kiribati faced their third defeat with just one win in the same pool.

Meanwhile, the clash between Solomon Islands and Tonga in the same pool saw Solomon Islands emerge victorious 3-1. This win marked the hosts’ first victory in the tournament, with two losses in previous matches.

Solomon Islands’ Junior Navere said: “Today I am happy with my team. Even though we struggled, it was tough, but we managed to overcome it.” He emphasised the need for the team to boost their confidence before facing New Caledonia, due to their experienced players.

In another intense men’s match-up, PNG dominated Fiji with a 3-0 victory and now lead pool B with three wins. Fiji, on the other hand, have won two matches and suffered one loss.

Turning to women’s volleyball, Tahiti exhibited a strong performance, defeating Solomon Islands in three sets and securing their position as the leading team in women’s pool A. Solomon Islands, in contrast, have suffered three losses in the same pool.

The match between American Samoa and PNG was a thrilling contest. American Samoa, having won two matches and lost one, faced stiff competition from PNG, who fought hard to win in straight sets, but the match remained intense until the final whistle.

Rugby League

Titans playmaker Chantay Kiria-Ratu led Cook Islands to the top of the points table as Fiji’s men’s and women’s teams suffered shock losses on the opening day of the Pacific Games Rugby League 9s in Honiara.

Fiji claimed gold in both events at the 2019 Pacific Games in Samoa but the Bulikula were beaten by Tonga and the Bati  went down to Samoa.

With Kiria-Ratu calling the shots, Cook Islands Moana won their opening three matches 36-0 against Solomon Islands, 28-6 against Vanuatu and 20-4 against Samoa.

Captained by 2023 IRL Golden Boot Toru Arakua, the Cook Islands team includes nine members of the squad which last month travelled to Papua New Guinea for the Pacific Championships.

The Fiji squad also boasts players involved in the Pacific Championships Test against Samoa but the Bulikula were stunned by Tonga, who 10-4 at half-time and hung on to win 14-8.

Vanuatu were the other headline of the women’s competition, making their international rugby league debut and the first appearance by a Vanuatu rugby league team at a Pacific Games.

Although they lost to Tonga 16-0, Cook Islands 28-6 and Fiji 56-0, captain Jaimeen Kenni said they were delighted to have scored a try.

Kenni added: “I think rugby league is going forward in Vanuatu. I hope the little girls out there who are watching us know that they can also come out here and play against the Tongans, the Cook Islands, and also feel like they can be part of it.

In other notable women’s results, Samoa beat Solomon Islands 20-8.

In the men’s competition, Cook Islands prevailed 18-8 in a thrilling encounter against Solomon Islands.

And Fiji faced off against Tonga in a game that showed Fiji’s strength and dominance in the 9s code from the kick-off to the final whistle, including a spectacular try by Ratu Josua Rokonavutoro.

Fiji’s relentless pressure and clinical abilities were evident throughout the second period and their commanding 20-0 win underlined the seamless play of the Bati.

However, after leading 12-8 at halftime in their Round 2 clash against Samoa, Fiji were unable to hold on and lost 18-12 in one of the upsets of the tournament.

Solomon Islands had earlier almost sprung an even bigger upset against Tonga after a spirited second-half comeback but went down 14-12.

Medal standings https://www.sol2023.com.sb/medal/

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