The sweltering heat, a thorn in everyone’s side on the final day of track and field events at Sol2023 on Friday, was not enough to stop the two Roses of New Caledonia from topping the podium in women’s shot put ambulant, as they prevailed to win gold and silver at Honiara’s National Stadium.
New Caledonia’s Rose Vandegou and Rose Welepa finished with gold and silver respectively to close out their Pacific Games campaigns and add to their country’s already impressive medal tally.
Rose Vandegou struggled with the heat and had to pass on her last two attempts, but her first attempts were good enough to win her the gold medal. Classing as F41 for field events, she threw 7.52 metres which earned her a placing percentage of 72.16 per cent and the gold medal.
Throwing a final distance of 9.17m, teammate Rose Welepa secured a final placing percentage of 70.26 against her F13 classification, missing out on the gold medal by a two per cent margin, and settling for silver.
In the ambulant category, Para athletes’ results are measured against their classification to determine their final placing percentage. A higher percentage closer to 100 indicates a better ranking and the highest ranked competitor at the end of the event is the winner.
Vandegou was not able to be present on the podium for the medal presentation after suffering from the heat and needing medical attention. She received her gold medal, her third at this Games, through her teammate Jasmine Pethigou who stood on the podium on her behalf.
In her absence, the Pacific Games News Service spoke to Vandegou’s coach, Germain Haewegene, who reflected on his Para athletes’ achievements.
“First of all, it is a great source of pride for my athletes. This is my first time coaching a major event and I’m quite satisfied with the medals we’ve achieved because we’ve actually done really well. So, I’m very happy for my athletes.
“It feels strange for me to be on the other side of the fence now. It’s also a stress I have to manage because there’s the material, the equipment, there’s the comfort of the athletes and I also have to motivate them especially in the mornings and the evenings and comfort those who have had bad results. But I am someone who likes to entertain and who manages to put a smile back on my athletes’ faces and that’s the most important thing. It’s the smile and the participation, but also the gold medal and medals that we will remember.”
Silver medallist Rose Welepa told the Pacific Games News Service: “I feel proud to have the silver medal and to have taken part in the Games. That was the goal and I achieved it. I feel a lot of joy and pride representing New Caledonia. I’m dedicating this medal to my father, to my country, my family, my son and my Mum. I also want to dedicate it to everyone in the New Caledonia team and in New Caledonia – they are all my family.”
Naibili Vatunisolo, the Samoa 2019 gold medallist in this event, made the podium again but this time with bronze. After four fouls, Vatunisolo managed a throw distance of 7.97m and a placing percentage of 68.47 against her F42 classification for the bronze medal.
Speaking to the Pacific Games News Service Vatunisolo said: “I feel proud about my performance, and I want to wish New Caledonia all the best for the next year. Four of my throws were fouls but I managed to have two good throws so I’m happy with my performance and I’m so happy with myself. I came in as the defending champion, and I wanted gold again, but I made it to the podium, and I’ve got a medal. I’m satisfied with the bronze medal.”
By Melissa Velvel Fare, Pacific Games News Service