Elenoa Vateitei of Fiji won gold in the women’s V1-16km marathon at DC Park on Thursday, briefly disrupting Tahiti’s dominance in the Sol2023 Pacific games va’a events.
After maintaining the lead in both laps of the V1 (single paddler) marathon race, Vateitei crossed the finish line in 1 hour, 30 minutes, and 9 seconds. The runner-up and silver medallist Mahia Poroi of Tahiti came from behind, finishing in 1:31.33.
Rosemelle Terii of New Caledonia followed just three minutes behind, winning bronze for New Caledonia in 1:35.19.
The women’s race was so challenging that not all competitors finished the course, which was two laps of 8km.
An excited Vateitei told the Pacific Games News Service that winning gold was possible due to the collective commitment of groups that supported her in her journey through the code.
“I just want to thank God for blessing me with such wonderful people and a great support system, thanks to my head coach, Duane Reiher, who has seen us through our worst and good times throughout training, always stayed true to his coaching, and helped us overcome any challenges we faced.”
The Fijian gold medallist also made mention of her parents’ humble contribution from the beginning towards her success.
“People who have supported me are where I draw my motivation and drive from. Their investment in my journey is something that no money in this world could repay,” Elena expressed with tears of joy.
She also shared her experience, saying it was a great opportunity to paddle here in Solomon Islands, as there is a lot of current, but it is really good to be going up against the best in the Pacific.
“The conditions today were really tricky; on our first lap of 8km, it was flat and calm, and then the wind picked up as we turned for the second lap, so we have experienced two very different conditions on the two laps we had to do.”
In the men’s V1-16km race, Tahitian Teraiamano Tuatea took another gold after maintaining the lead throughout, finishing in 1:24.55, followed by Titouan Puyo, who won silver with a finishing time of 1:27.04. Fiji and Cook Islands fought it out for bronze, but Andre Tutaka managed to paddle ahead and finished first in 1:31.59.
Gold medallist Tuatea expressed his appreciation to everyone back in Tahiti who supported his journey.
“It is a big honour for me to represent Tahiti and win a gold medal, especially in the individual category, because everybody is focused on you and behind you. It’s a special achievement to win a gold medal.
He added: “I didn’t train specifically for this Pacific Games; instead, I trained for the bigger long-distance race in Hawaiki Nui. I prepared and adjusted to the type of conditions we had today and was ready to compete.”
By Elron Dokese and Ambrose Toremana, Pacific Games News Service