Papua New Guinea (PNG) powered to gold in the men’s 4 x 400m relay at the Sol2023 Pacific Games on Thursday night in a closely contested final at Honiara’s National Stadium.
Although PNG led throughout, Fiji were never far behind and it was tight until the final stretches.
PNG’s team of Daniel Baul, Emmanuel Wanga, Adolf Kauba and Benjamin Aliel finished in 3 minutes, 13.53 seconds to claim gold.
Around two seconds behind were Fiji’s Sailasa Moala, Waisake Tewa, Vishant Reddy and Jonacani Koroi, who settled for silver (3:15.80).
The bronze medallists were Vanuatu (Terry Tickie Mael, Obediah Timbaci, Toho Josuah and Rizon Leo Rara) who crossed the line with a time of 3:20.49.
A tense wait after the race saw PNG awarded a yellow card for a foul, but they retained their first-place finish.
The placings of PNG gold, Fiji silver and Vanuatu bronze mirror the result in this event four years ago at the Samoa 2019 Pacific Games, although Fiji raced with an entirely different team at Sol2023.
PNG’s second runner Wanga, who along with Baul and Aliel won at Samoa 2019, said his team had been expecting to defend their title.
“I’d like to thank God for the opportunity to represent my country. Three of us were part of the team (in Samoa), it has been a long journey, but we’re just doing it for the country.”
Fiji’s Tewa said: “I want to thank my teammates for getting us to the final and winning silver, and I want to thank Almighty God for the long journey we have been on. We didn’t train together for a long time, we only had a preparation of one month”.
Vanuatu’s delighted team member Timbaci, who was also a member of his nation’s bronze medal-winning team at Samoa 2019 said: “I’m really happy, our two months of training has not gone to waste.
“It was a bit of a tough race, PNG are the strongest team in the Pacific but we managed to come third, so that’s really good. When I was running I was just thinking about coming first or second, because then even if we didn’t come first, we might come second or third.”
Pacific Games News Service