Young golfer wins Tonga’s first gold at Pacific Games

(L-R) New Caledonia’s Gracia Lormand, Tonga’s Salote Alexis Vakasiuola and Kirra St Laurent of Tahiti (Photo: Anthony Manepasua/Pacific Games News Service)

Salote Alexis Vakasiuola, 16, won Tonga’s first gold medal at the 2023 Pacific Games in Honiara, Solomon Islands on November 25, where she demonstrated remarkable determination in the women’s golfing event.

She won in the women’s singles event during her debut appearance at the Pacific Games, shooting 73, 76, 69, and 73 on the final day to finish with a total of 291 after four days, with a 10-point margin on her nearest rival, Pricilla Grace Lormand, who scored 301.

Salote told the Pacific Games News Service she feels great winning the first gold for Tonga. Her victory was described as a result of a “remarkable determination over days of competition.”

Netball

Day one of the Sol2023 Pacific Games netball tournament saw convincing wins for Cook Islands, Samoa, Fiji and Tonga at Honiara’s Friendship Hall on Monday.

Samoa 2019 gold medallists Cook Islands kicked off their campaign in blistering fashion, defeating a spirited Vanuatu 84-13.

The defending champs all but sealed the match right from the get go – dominating possession and putting in the goals to bag their first win of the competition.

“We will just be taking each game as it comes – one game at a time and see what we need to work on, expecting to always improve in every game we play as the competition progresses,” captain Romehael Rauraa said.

Also seeing victory on Monday was Samoa, who outplayed Norfolk Island to earn a convincing 73-14 win.

Speaking to the Pacific Games News Service,captain Abigail Latu-Meafou said: “It is always good to get a win in your opening game. Obviously, we know this is a great opportunity for us to boost our rankings, so we will be going for the top 10”.

Seven-time Pacific Games gold medalists and favourites Fiji made a grand return to the Pacific Games after missing out on the 2019 edition, sweeping aside hosts Solomon Islands in an impressive 90-25 win.

The Fiji Pearls (as they are most commonly known) took command from the outset, flawlessly converting every opportunity as the home side struggled to match their pace and ball possession, leading 21-6 in the first quarter, 41-12 by half time and then taking it home after the breather to a final score of 90-25.

Meanwhile, the talk of today’s netball competition openers however belonged to Tonga, who against all odds played two matches and scooped back-to-back victories.

Finishing off as runners-up in 2019, the Tongan Tala are geared up this time round to go one better and win gold here at Sol2023.

Kicking off their campaign, the ladies in red thrashed Niue 90-17 in the competition’s opening match and then wrapped up proceedings with a hard earned 62-54 victory over Papua New Guinea.

Track

The Sol2023 Pacific Games will see the crowning of a new 100m sprint king on Tuesday evening at Honiara’s National Stadium, following the retirement of reigning champion Banuve Tabakaucoro. Monday’s preliminary rounds and three semifinal heats reduced the field to nine 100m sprint finalists for the flagship event.

Samoa’s Jeremy Dodson, who won silver at the Samoa 2019 Pacific Games and came into Sol2023 as the favourite in the absence of Tabakaucoro, unfortunately suffered a hamstring injury in his semi-final heat which saw him unable to qualify for the final.

The second of the semi-final heats was won by Wisil Pais from PNG winning. “I need to work on my technique and focus on my preparation for tomorrow’s final,” he said. “I need to have some good rest and we’ll see (how) it (goes) tomorrow.”

The men’s 100m final is set for 7:35pm today at the National Stadium.

Not forgetting Fiji’s long-distance runner and 2022 Pacific Mini Games gold medalist, Yeshnil Karan. He comfortably clinched gold in the Sol2023 Pacific Games men’s 10,000 metres at the National Stadium on Monday evening.

A confident, Karan, who declined to comment on his first gold medal at Sol2023 until after his final race on Saturday, clocked an impressive time of 32 minutes 32.30 seconds.

The 10,000m record stands unbroken at 30:30.96, achieved by New Caledonia’s Alain Lazare during the 1989 South Pacific Mini Games in Nukualofa, Tonga.

The women’s 5000m race saw a new champion at the Sol2023 Pacific Games with Tania Tan of Northern Mariana Islands securing gold medal with an impressive time of 18 minutes and 8.69 seconds, setting a new Pacific Games record in the process.  

The 21-year-old Fordham University senior eradicated Solomon Islands’ Sharon Firisua’s record of 18:20.09, which was set at Port Moresby 2015.

Also, Australia’s Georgia Harris qualified fastest for the women’s 100m final on Monday, clocking an impressive 11.82 seconds. Next fastest was Regine Tugade-Watson of Guam (11.91) who won the other semi-final.

Three Papua New Guinea (PNG) sprinters will contest the final, hoping to keep the sprint queen crown in their home country (reigning champion Toea Wisil is absent from Sol2023 after recently giving birth). They are Isila Apkup who qualified in 12.06 seconds, Leonie Beu, who won bronze in this event at Samoa 2019 (12.15) and Adrine Monagi (12.17).

The remaining finalists are two Vanuatu sprinters – Lyza Malres and Claudie David – Kesaia Boletakanakavu of Fiji and Rebecca Peterson of New Zealand.

The women’s 100m final will be the last event of today’s session at 7.45pm (SI time).

Football

There was drama, tears and history created in the Sol2023 Pacific Games men’s football play-offs at the SIFF Academy on Monday as Northern Mariana Islands (NMI) recorded their first ever Pacific Games football goals and win.

NMI defied all odds in earning their first ever Pacific Games football victory thanks to a 4-0 win over American Samoa in the competition’s first ninth place play-off semi-final. Jireh Yobech scored his country’s first Pacific Games goal from the penalty spot 32 minutes into the match. Ruben Guerrero added a brace after the breather before Ariel Narvaez all but sealed the famous victory with a last-ditch goal towards the end of the match.

“I am very happy with the performance today. We didn’t get the results we wanted in our last two matches but today we finally made history for our country. We have definitely proved that we can compete with these FIFA affiliated teams and of course we can win,” a jubilant NMI coach, Michiteru Mita told the Pacific Games News Service.

Michiteru’s side will take on Tuvalu next, who defeated Tonga 4-0 in the day’s other ninth place play-off semi- final.

Kayak

The much-anticipated inaugural Pacific Games kayak races at Sol2023 lit up the waters of DC Park on Monday with heats for the K1-500m and K2-500m.

Monday saw two heats for each event, for both men and women, with the winners qualifying for the finals today.

Iloha Eychenne of Tahiti leads the women’s events by winning two heats in the K2-500 meters, tailed by Charlotte Robin of New Caledonia and Tara Cumming of Cook Islands.

Field

Nu’u Tuilefano from Samoa inserted her name into the Pacific Games history books after she shot to gold in the women’s shot put finals at Honiara’s National Stadium on Monday, setting a new Pacific Games record and personal best in the process.

She watched from the Sol2023 circle as the final 4kg shot she threw landed further and outside of the muddy spot where all the other throws had settled previously. The white flag went up, signalling that her final and biggest throw of 17.34 metres was legal, producing loud cheers from fellow competitors, the crowd and an ecstatic Tuilefano herself.

The proud Samoan broke the 18-year-old Pacific Games record of 16.92m set at the Palau 2005 Mini Games by Tonga’s ‘Ana Po’uhila.  

Australian athlete Nash Lowis’ last attempt throws clinched gold for Australia in the men’s javelin throw at the Sol2023 Pacific Games in Honiara on Monday night.

In a strong field of 17 athletes, which included the gold and bronze medallists from Samoa 2019 Pacific Games, 24-year-old Lowis emerged victorious with his final throw of 74.80 metres.

Speaking after the event he said, “I started off a bit rocky in the beginning but managed to pull out something reasonable, well enough to win gold,” he told the Pacific Games News Service.

Boxing

Papua New Guinea (PNG) and hosts Solomon Islands dominated day one of boxing at the Sol2023 Pacific Games on Monday.

Before a jam-packed Friendship Hall, PNG won five of the 23 preliminary bouts contested, following by Solomon Islands who won four. Samoa won three, followed by New Zealand, Australia, Fiji and Tonga who all won two of the 23, whilst Tahiti, Nauru and Niue all won a bout each.

Two-time Australian boxing champion, Tyla McDonald proved too strong for her Solomon Islands opponent, Tracy Koputu in the Women’s 60kg Lightweight opener. This was the only women’s bout on the day.

PNG’s dominance then followed with Allen Oaike (Featherweight 57kg), Jamie Chang (Bantamweight 54kg), Bid Inoino (Bantamweight 54kg) and Kantie Oaike (Light Flyweight 46-48kg) all winning their respective quarterfinal bouts to proceed to the semi-finals.

Also winning their bouts were:

– Charlie Senior (Australia) – Featherweight (57kg)
– Alex Mukuka (New Zealand) – Featherweight (57kg)
– Roman Viney (Tonga) – Light Heavyweight (80kg)
– Aminiasi Saratibau (Fiji) – Light Heavyweight (80kg)
Ato Faoagali Plodzicki (Samoa) – Heavyweight (92kg)
– Preston Malcolm Matthes (New Zealand) – Heavyweight (92kg)
– Fineasi Tuipulotu (Tonga) – Welterweight (67kg)
– De Niro Pao (Niue) – Welterweight (67kg)
– Raphael Dauphin (Tahiti) – Welterweight (67kg)
– Jone Davule (Fiji) – Lightweight (60kg)
– Gaissa Jones (Nauru) – Welterweight (67kg)
– Alai Faauila (Samoa) – Welterweight (67kg)
– Saliuafi Tuautu (Samoa) – Middleweight (75kg)

Heptathlon

Mia Scerri of Australia took a commanding lead in the heptathlon on Monday’s opening day of the athletics competition at the Sol2023 Pacific Games.

The18-year-old put herself in first place for the 100m hurdles with a time of 14.54 seconds and distanced herself from the heptathlon’s five other contestants with a high jump clearance of 1.77m. She threw strongest in shot put (13.70m) but came second to Edna Boafob of Papua New Guinea (PNG) in the 200m sprint.

Tahiti’s experienced heptathlete, Timeri Lamorelle, who currently sits third on the leaderboard, said she was very impressed with Scerri’s performance.

The 28-year-old told the Pacific Games News Service: “I won the heptathlon 12 years ago; it has been a long time. I see we have great athletes and the Australian one is really amazing I really admire her because I trained very hard for the heptathlon but when I saw her I just can’t compete with her, she has been doing great all day,” she said.

Decathlon

Papua New Guinea’s Karo Iga was in pole position in the Sol2023 Pacific Games men’s decathlon at the end of Monday’s first five events at Honiara’s National Stadium.

Iga won the first event (100m sprint) in 10.93 seconds, as well as the second event (long jump) with a best jump of 6.83 metres. In the fourth event, high jump, he broke the Pacific Games record (previously 1.91m) by leaping 1.94m to win, and he also won the 400m sprint in 49.72 seconds.

In fact, the only event not won by Iga was shot put, which was won by Tahiti’s Timona Poareu (12.06m). New Zealand’s Stephen Thorpe finished second with a best shot of 11.62m, and Iga came in third place with 10.78m.

Touch rugby

Cook Islands Prime Minister, Mark Brown said he was impressed with the effort of Pacific Islanders to develop the touch rugby code when attending the first day of the Sol2023 Pacific Games tournament at DC Park on Monday.

The Pacific Games News Service caught up with the PM, who is in Solomon Islands on a three-day visit to witness Cook Islands athletes competing at the Games. He witnessed Cook Islands register their first win in the men’s open event, defeating host nation Solomon Islands 12-1.

“It’s really good that we have started to see countries put more teams into this rugby code,” Brown said.

“The competition champions have also changed over the past Games, as we used to have Fiji at the top, and of course now Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a very strong contender, and now we have started to see good growth of athletes from other countries participating in the competition,” Brown added.

The first match in the women’s open event saw Fiji beat Samoa 6-3 and Cook Islands defeat the Solomon Islands with the same scoreline as their male counterparts, 12-1.

Va’a

Tahiti showcased their dominance on the opening day of Sol2023 Pacific Games va’a on Monday, scooping gold medals in the V1 and V12-500m races at DC Park.

V1 features a single paddler in a boat, while V12 is a team of 12.

The paddling tournament commenced with the women’s V12-500m, where Tahiti snatched gold, finishing in 2 minutes, 22 seconds, followed by New Caledonia in just a blink of 4 seconds behind, settling for silver, and Fiji for bronze, finishing in 2 minutes, 32 seconds.

The men’s V12-500m race was a tough contest with finishing times seconds apart. New Caledonia crossed the line in 1 minute and 55 seconds claiming gold. Wallis and Futuna were seconds behind claiming silver, and Papua New Guinea (PNG) vying for bronze put up a spectacular race, but Tahiti sneaked their way past, finishing in 2 minutes and 1 second with PNG only a second behind.

In the men’s V1-500m, Taputu Temoana of Tahiti snatched gold in a Pacific Games record time of 2 minutes 23 seconds, followed by New Caledonia’s Legras Maels in 2 minutes 29 seconds. Andre Tutaka George of Cook Islands was lucky enough to make his hasty paddling way past Wallis and Futuna’s Tuauoifenua Jacky to claim bronze.

In the women’s singles V1-500m, Fiji’s Elenoa Vateiti bagged gold, finishing in 2 minutes 50 seconds, four seconds ahead of Samoa’s Anne Cairns. Bronze was claimed by Norfolk Island’s Ada Nabauer after a hard run against Mihinoaanaviaite Paari of Tahiti.

Speaking to the Pacific Games News Service, newly crowned women’s champion Vateiti said: “All glory and praise go back to God above. The race today was really challenging, given the conditions at the outside lane, but thanks to His provision, I managed to come this far.

Va’a will continue with events until Thursday.

Football

Fiji and Papua New Guinea (PNG) secured their spots in the Sol2023 Pacific Games women’s football gold medal match following their semi-final wins at Lawson Tama Stadium on Monday.

PNG showcased their resilience defeating a formidable Samoa side 5-1 in the first semi-final match of the women’s football competition.

Despite playing with only ten players following Serah Waida’s red card in the 44th minute, the reigning champions dominated the first half, leading 3-0 at the break thanks to another two goals from captain Ramona Padio and one from Marie Kaipu.

Samoa attempted a comeback in the second half, narrowing the gap with a goal, and caused some problems for PNG, but their efforts fell short as PNG secured the win with another two goals – Kaipu’s second and Padio’s third.

The Sol2023 women’s football gold medal match, which will take place on Friday December 1st at 7pm.

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