Thursday at the Sol2023 Pacific Games Aquatic Centre was another big night with two more Pacific Games records set, 24 medals won, swimming goals achieved and the final races for some.
Wesley Roberts of Cook Islands started off the night with a new Pacific Games record, gold, and his personal best time in the men’s 100m freestyle. Taking inspiration from the night before (Wednesday) where two new Games records were set, Roberts swam a final time of 50.05 seconds for gold and his name replaced Stephane Debaere (and the 50.44 seconds he set at Port Moresby 2015) in the record books. John William Dabin (50.62) picked up silver, and his teammate Ethan Dumesnil (51.18) claimed bronze.
Roberts told the Pacific Games News Service: “I saw the record and one of the guys said that I didn’t owe him $10 if I broke the record, so that was a bit of extra incentive but, again, everyone showed up tonight, which makes it more that more special and you want to get the job done. Me and my coach put a plan together and it paid off.
“I thought I could go close, my PB (personal best) was underneath the record, but you still have to get it done on the night and I was able to PB so that’s the best time I’ve ever swam for the 100 free, so that’s also really special and exciting and I’m just glad I could get it done for the Cook Islands.”
In the women’s 100m freestyle, Olivia Borg continues to emerge victorious in her individual races, picking up her third gold medal at Sol2023 and adding to Samoa’s tally in a time of 58.60 seconds. New Caledonia’s Malou Douillard finished second with a time of 58.83 seconds and Fiji’s Anahira McCutcheon (59.54) finished third.
Borg meant business on day four as she picked up her second gold medal of the night and her fourth of the Games in the women’s 50m butterfly, clocking 27.83 seconds. New Caledonia was on the podium for silver and bronze courtesy of Lillie Freulon (28.01) and Douillard (28.30), who finished second and third respectively.
With back-to-back finals to swim and medals to win Borg was busy, but she spared time to say this about her double golds on Thursday, which brought her overall total of gold medals at Sol2023 to four. “Honestly, I’m over the moon. I was not expecting this at all but I couldn’t be any happier right now. I came into the Games just to have fun and so coming out with four golds is just amazing. I wouldn’t have thought of it and I’m lost for words, but I’m just really happy.”
“Obviously coming here to represent my country, being here with all the other Samoan sports as well just means a lot, having the support by my family, and this is my first Pacific Games as well so I’m enjoying every single moment and I’m representing my family as well.
“I’m excited for what’s to come and I’m happy with where I’m at so it’s just up from here,” she told the Pacific Games News Service.
The men’s 50m butterfly saw Ethan Dumesnil of New Caledonia comfortably secure gold with a time of 24.31 seconds. Roberts (24.67) settled for silver in this race while Thibault Mary (24.86) was the other New Caledonian to make it to the podium for bronze.
In the men’s 100m breaststroke, Tasi Limtiaco proved that dreams do come true as he achieved his goal of a triple gold for himself and Federated States of Micronesia at Sol2023. His winning time in the pool was 1 minute and 3.60 seconds. Alexandre Gane (1:05.36) from New Caledonia picked up silver and Micah Masei (1:05.80) from American Samoa bronze.
Limtiaco, with a huge grin on his face, told the Pacific Games News Service achieving the “triple crown” felt “amazing”.
“Honestly, I almost broke down in tears after the event. I was a little bit emotional there, but I managed to pull it together,” he said.
“That 100 was a lot…I don’t want to say easier…but I think it was the toughest race for me mentally. That’s the race I prepared for the most, but I was really nervous for some reason before the race. But I got the gold, so I did what I came here to do.”
When asked about celebrating his achievements, there was only one thing on the triple gold medallist’s mind: “I definitely want cake right now. Double chocolate fudge, something like that, something a little bit heavy. With thick ice cream too.”
Sixteen-year-old Fijian Kelera Mudunasuoko won the first medal for Fiji at Sol2023 on Monday, and on Thursday she proudly stood on the podium with gold as the Fijian flag was raised and national anthem played for the women’s 100m breaststroke. Mudunasuoko swam a comfortable time of 1 minute and 13.01 seconds for gold while Cook Islands’ Mary Connolly (1:14.32) scooped silver and New Caledonia’s Manon Baldovini (1:16.45) bronze.
Mudunasuoko told the Pacific Games News Service: “It’s crazy, it feels good. The sacrifices and hard work and tough morning and afternoon trainings have really paid off. It feels great but words can’t really describe how much this gold medal really means to me,” she said.
Connolly, the only female swimmer for Cook Islands at Sol2023 and the silver medallist said: “I’m so proud to win medals for the Cook Islands especially at my first Pacific Games. It is definitely a tough sport, the highs and lows and lots of training, but it always pays off when you win a medal.
“I love racing for my country. It makes me feel so proud representing my family.”
In the longest event of the night and the Games, the men’s 1500m freestyle, Tahiti’s Nael Roux swam a time of 16 minutes and 7.38 seconds to claim the long-distance gold, his first gold and seventh medal of swimming at Sol2023. Baptiste Savignac (16:43.17) from New Caledonia finished in second place and Enzo Kernivenen (17:00.50) also from Tahiti finished third.
Roux, now with a gold, three silver and three bronze medals to his name said: “I have tried my best to win gold for my country, for my nation, Tahiti. I have worked hard for this, and I am very happy for the three silver, three bronze and the gold and I know my fans are very happy that I have won these seven medals representing my country.”
New Caledonia continued their record-setting streak with a new Pacific Games record of 1 minute and 39.24 seconds in the mixed 4 x 50m freestyle relay. The New Caledonian team broke their own record which they set at Samoa 2019 (1:39.79).
This new Pacific Games record secured gold for New Caledonia, while Fiji (1:39.88) claimed silver and Samoa (1:40.76) ended their night with bronze.
At the end of day four, New Caledonia’s medal count at swimming increased to 40 (16 gold, 14 silver, 10 bronze). Tahiti have 20 (two gold, seven silver and 11 bronze), Fiji 12 (two gold, six silver and four bronze), Samoa nine (four gold, three silver and two bronze) and Cook Islands six (three gold, two silver and one bronze). Federated States of Micronesia (three gold) and Northern Mariana Islands (one gold and two bronze) have three medals each, American Samoa has two (one silver and one bronze) and Papua New Guinea has one bronze.
Friday is the final day of swimming at the Aquatic Centre and will feature eight events. The preliminary heats will take place from 9:30am to 10:30am and the finals in the evening from 6:30pm onwards.
By Melissa Velvel Fare and Roselyn Toliulu, Pacific Games News Service