Fiji are no doubt the hockey kings and queens of the Pacific after scooping their seventh title at the Sol2023 Pacific Games in Honiara on Friday.
Fiji’s men’s team dramatically edged out Papua New Guinea (PNG) 3-2 on penalties, and the women impressively saw off hosts Solomon Islands 2-0 in the finals of the Sol2023 men’s and women’s hockey competitions.
Speaking to the Pacific Games News Service, an ecstatic Fiji men’s captain Richard Sekiguchi said they were delighted to have successfully defended their title.
“We are happy to come out on top against a really strong PNG team. The fight was very tough. We did everything we could to come out with the victory. Winning gold means everything to us – all the hard work we have put in preparing for these Games has indeed paid off today.”
The women’s final saw much more excitement pitchside as Fiji took on underdogs Solomon Islands. Despite a massive crowd at its back, Solomon Islands did seem to face an uphill battle.
Capitalising on their experience, pace and agility, Fiji dominated early on and snuck in two early unanswered goals, then held on for the victory.
Fiji women’s coach Hector Smith said: “I am indeed happy for the girls to get the victory against a very well organised and fit Solomons team. This Solomons side may not be experienced but they can run all day. We had to change our approach in this game to counter that – which did work and we came out victorious”.
Despite the defeat, Solomon Islands women’s hockey captain Jeremie Oliva Ghailobo said she and the team are proud to have won silver for the country in their first appearance at a Pacific Games.
“I concede that many of us are down because of the defeat. Fiji are the champions and today was a really tough match. However, despite all that, we are still proud that we have managed to win silver for the country in our very first Pacific Games appearance.”
She added that, now that they have had a taste of the Pacific Games competition, they will strive to improve before the next Games in Tahiti four years from now.
Meanwhile in Friday’s bronze medal matches, Vanuatu defeated Solomon Islands 2-1 to take home the bronze in the men’s competition, whilst in the women’s, PNG defeated Tonga 2-0 to bag bronze.
By Jeffson Aghi, Philip Robo and Emily Ramofolo, Pacific Games News Service