Less than a month away from the SOL23 Pacific Games, Islands Business takes a closer look at some of the athletes that will be representing their island home countries. The Solomons capital, Honiara, is the epicenter of this prestigious sports gathering from 19 November to 2 December.
There are a total of 19 countries participating across 25 different sports. Correspondent Alipate Pareti spoke to some of the athletes as they prepare for the Pacific Games.
First up is Samoan boxing star and reigning light heavyweight Pacific Games champion, Ato Plodzicki-Faoagali. He resides in Sydney, Australia where most of his training takes place.
“It’s been good. Very tough. A lot of running. A lot of weights and a mixture of everything. I’ve always come in prepared for the Games.”
The boxing journey started very early for Ato.
“I started boxing around 11. I started when I was younger but it wasn’t so serious.”
Behind his success is his “old man” Steven Faoagali, who is also his head coach.
“Yeah, my Dad, he’s always [been] a big fan of boxing so he brought me up in the game. Sometimes he’s very strict because he’s my father but it’s all love at the end. It’s always hard sometimes and we are always training at home so there’s no excuses to escape training.”
Like any Pacific Islander in sports, family is his biggest motivation for training. “I have a lot on my plate and I have a daughter as well. So, I just want to provide for my family.”
Ato also spoke about boxing being a very difficult sport.
“There’s a lot of challenges in boxing. There’s training, trying to balance work as well, weights, trying to stay fit and trying to find sparring also. It’s hard to find sparring partners in Australia sometimes, but we get the job done at the end of the day.”
“Challenges? I’m not too sure who’s in the competition but I always come ready.”
However, Ato and his Dad at times struggle to find good sponsorships to support their quest.
“Yeah. It is a challenge as well. My old man, he is very good with his words sometimes so he helps out a lot in trying to find sponsorships. Most of the time it’s been challenging but my Dad has been good.”
Ato has quickly become a prominent name in the Pacific boxing scene and works hard for his reputation.
“Like anything in life…in studies, you just have to be consistent. It’s going to be hard but you’ve just gotta stay consistent with your work ethic. I wasn’t always the most talented but I’m always good with my work ethic.”
The SOL23 will be Ato’s final amateur competition – a perfect send-off into the lucrative, high end of boxing.
“After the Pacific Games, I’m trying to have another professional fight in Samoa and God willing the Olympics. But we’ll see about the Olympics because we need the sponsorships to train. And if not, I will go full professional.”
“I would like to fight Kwadjo in Samoa and hopefully soon. That’s in the Cruiserweight. We have been talking a lot in negotiations. It has been working out. So, we’ll see how we go.”
For the Pacific Games, Ato says, “There’s always challenges…so always come ready. If you’re in the islands, come watch the games or tune in online to enjoy some action.”