Fiji’s Rusiate Matai claimed gold in men’s high jump at the Sol2023 Pacific Games on Friday with a 2.04 metre jump.
Clinching silver for Tonga was Mosese Foliaki with a 2.02m jump, while Lorima Tabai Walu of Fiji claimed bronze (1.90m).
Both Fijian medallists were just 20 years of age.
Foliaki, who won gold in this event at the Samoa 2019 Pacific Games, struggled to beat Matai, who was making his first Pacific Games appearance.
“I feel proud and excited about winning the gold,” Matai said. “I give this result to my country and the whole family as an appreciation for all their love and support”.
“I am looking forward to the next Pacific Games in Tahiti in 2027 and I am hoping that I will be able to improve more on my result.”
Asked what we would do following this win, Matai said: “I will go back home and eat what my mother prepared back at home, and I will celebrate today’s achievement,” he said excitedly.
Reflecting on his downgrade from gold to silver, Foliaki told the Pacific Games News Service: “I am satisfied with my result because I know that I gave my best and I know for sure that everyone came here for gold.
“In the field of sport there are always winners and losers, and I struggled to beat my performance in my last Pacific Games.
“I prepared for almost six to seven months before heading here for the Pacific Games and unfortunately the facilities we used for training were not good enough. Back at home, we did not manage to train on the track, we just used the grass. Despite that, I am proud to represent Tonga and at least win a medal for them.
“I congratulate the Fijian for winning the gold medal, and this challenge motivates me to work harder for future competitions.”
Bronze medallist Tabai Walu told the Pacific Games News Service excitedly: “I just feel proud and happy for my teammate that we both won a medal for our country, and it was great to compete against Tonga in our first Pacific Games. I dedicate my medal to my friends, family, and my school and for Fiji”.
By Helen Palmer, Jenabeth Sera and Meleseini Tufui, Pacific Games News Service