From the inspiring to the surprising, a round-up of the best quotes from athletes and coaches across the Sol2023 Pacific Games, as gathered by reporters from the Pacific Games News Service.
“Each race is different and so I accepted the way it ended.”
Solomon Islands long distance running legend Sharon Firisua on the strategy that saw her finish third in the women’s half marathon, behind teammate Dianah Matekali.
“I will go back home and eat what my mother prepared, and I will celebrate today’s achievement.”
Fiji’s Rusiate Matai is looking forward to a home cooked meal after winning gold in the men’s high jump.
“I got the motivation from my Mum to win this race. She texted me last night and said, ‘we don’t want to see you come second’, so I said ‘I’ll have to do this for you. Love you all’.”
Papua New Guinea’s men’s 400m hurdles gold medallist Daniel Baul on what powered him through the race.
“Behind my success is me, my coach and my Mum. We all work hard together. I just try to have big goals like making it to the Olympics and I was determined to do well in this competition.”
Australia’s Calab Law, who claimed gold in the men’s 100m and 200m, reveals his winning formula.
“Before coming to the Games, I went to work in Bundaberg, Australia as a seasonal worker. I was picking avocados, and I used my work picking and throwing avocados as training.”
Vanuatu’s men’s javelin ambulant silver medallist, Ken Kahu on his unusual training regime.
“I’m ecstatic. I just screamed over the line, I was overjoyed. Just before the race, I was thinking, I want to be on that gold podium. I want to be looking at the Australian flag, hearing my national anthem for the first time in my life, getting that opportunity. So, I was just overcome with adrenaline. It is so surreal getting to do that. You know, a dream.”
Australia’s Imogen Breslin who won gold in the women’s 100m hurdles.
“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.”
Vanuatu’s 4x400m relay bronze medallist Obediah Timbaci reveals his mental approach to the race.
“We’re always told ‘don’t look at the results, don’t look at the frosting (icing)’ as our team likes to say, but I mean the frosting is the best part so it’s good to come here and get some medals and go home to your family.”
New Zealand’s men’s 1500m gold medallist Jack Paine admits the frosting on the cake is irresistible.
“It was my son’s wish for me to win gold. He sent me a short video telling me that he wished that I would win, so I had to push and try my best. I miss Vanuatu and I miss my son, but it motivates me to win this gold medal today.”
Vanuatu’s Elie Enock reveals the person behind her winning gold in the women’s shot put secured throw and securing herself likely qualification for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games.
“I woke up this morning and said, ‘how am I gonna run today? I cannot even get out of bed’. But I was like, ‘you can do it for your island, my country…you came all this way and even missed school, it is almost finals week’ (university exams). So, I was like, ‘you need to run hard, try your best’.”
Northern Mariana Islands’ Tania Tan after adding women’s 10,000m gold to her women’s 5000m gold within the space of three days.
“Today is an amazing moment for me because I came second and I’m so excited that I can represent my country and my family in front of my people. For me it is a great honor to compete here, and I want to encourage other people like me to come along and join sport with me.”
Solomon Islands’ Jeminah Otoa, who won silver in the women’s 100m ambulant race, hopes to inspire more Para athletes.
“I also want to tell people like me and other Para athletes to not be afraid of your abilities. I want to encourage them that having a disability does not mean that we only belong in our little corners in our homes. We all belong everywhere, and we can all do many different things, including sport.”
Marceline Moli from Vanuatu, who won bronze in the women’s 100m ambulant race, issues a rallying call to potential future Para athletes.
“In decathlon the difference is that you’re in competition, but you make friends with your competitors because you spend two days together in the same room, do the same ten events, so it creates coalition and good fraternity, so it’s very good and very different from all the other events.”
Tahiti’s decathlon silver medallist Timona Poareu reveals what happens behind the scenes.
“I only learnt pole vault for two Saturdays before competing in the (Solomon Islands national) championships (a test event for the Pacific Games, held in October) and then I just waited for the Pacific Games and jumped again today. I’m very happy to win the silver.”
Solomon Islands’ women’s pole vault silver medallist Julian Sosimo reveals she won a medal despite having almost no experience in the event.
“There is no better feeling than excitement.”
Fiji men’s basketball captain Marcus Whippy after his team defeated Guam 51-47 to claim gold.
“We are the underdogs of the tournament. We’re young and we’re smart but most importantly we’ve got heart, and we played hard tonight, which is all that matters.”
Palau men’s basketball 3×3 captain Wallace Worswick after his team beat favourites Guam.
“I know I don’t look like your typical Aussie, so when a lot of people see me, especially on TikTok and Instagram, they say ‘you’re not Australian’. It just makes me laugh how people have this image of an Aussie having blonde hair and blue eyes.”
Tina Rahimi, Australia’s first Muslim women’s boxer, who succeeded in qualifying for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games by winning gold in the Sol2023 women’s 57kg boxing final.
“We came here with a very young team. We just let the girls know that there are some girls that won the fifth one, the fourth, the third, the first, and the second. You have to make your own history.”
PNG women’s football coach Eric Komeng reveals how he motivated his side to win gold at a sixth consecutive Pacific Games.
“We didn’t get the results we wanted in our last two matches but today we finally made history for our country. We have definitely proved that we can compete with these FIFA affiliated teams and of course we can win.”
Northern Mariana Islands men’s football coach Michiteru Mita after his team recorded their first ever win at the Pacific Games.
“After all, the game of football is anybody’s match to win or lose. We don’t choose the results; everybody’s aim is to win. We won but not by the margin we needed.”
Tahiti men’s football coach Samuel Garcia after his team failed to win by an unenviable 11-goal margin to move forward in the tournament.
“The only challenge for them is to control their emotions. Playing golf requires focus; otherwise, mistakes can happen.”
PNG golf coach Kim Baldwin as his team progressed through the Sol2023 tournament.
“Winning nine gold medals is not enough, and we are hoping to win more in the next competition.”
New Caledonia karate head coach Gregory Panne sets a high bar for his team.
“Rugby only just started a decade ago in Wallis and Futuna, and we are still developing; however, today’s win will certainly boost the sport back at home and inspire the next generation of players.”
Wallis and Futuna head coach and former Fiji national 7s player, Sailosi Nawavu, on his women’s team winning bronze at their first Pacific Games.
RUGBY LEAGUE 9s
“From my point of view, rugby league is not about size, gender or background. I guess it’s in our Tongan bloodline, we were born for it. I just want to say to the young generations out there, be yourself, get up, it does not matter if you are small or skinny or young. Have faith in God, everything will be possible – all you have to do is just trust the process.”
Tonga women’s rugby league 9s captain ‘Ana Ngahe after her team won silver in their Pacific Games debut.
“I feel awesome to have got this opportunity. I just hope that we will inspire other Pacific women to take up refereeing. Even though it’s a male-dominated sport, we women should lay down our fear and just go for it.”
Fijian teenager and rugby league 9s referee Sainimere Vateitei, who made history at the Sol2023 Pacific Games event as one of the first Pacific women to referee at an international rugby league tournament.
“The island that I was born on was maybe like five miles long and I’m standing here right now. This is for kids who come from small places, don’t ever give up. We might come from small places, but we can do big things.”
Federated States of Micronesia swimmer Tasi Limtiaco, who won his country’s first swimming medals at Sol2023 (three gold and one bronze).
“Swimming gives me that opportunity to get the Cook Islands out there and it’s always nice when I’m at a World Championship and people come up and ask me ‘oh where’s the Cook Islands?’ and I get to share our little paradise with the rest of the world.”
Cook Islands swimmer Wesley Roberts, who won five swimming medals (including three gold) at Sol2023, reveals how swimming makes him a global ambassador for his country.
“You never know what could happen, but I tried my best and God did the rest.”
Papua New Guinea swimmer Georgia-Leigh Vele, who won bronze in the women’s 50m breaststroke after finishing fourth behind a swimmer who was disqualified.
“I told him ‘this is our home ground, we are the host, don’t let them take away the medal from your neck, defend that gold because we are the host’.”
Solomon Islands taekwondo coach Junior Maetia reveals what he told athlete Isaac Pat Myrie to inspire him to win the nation’s first ever taekwondo gold medal.
“This is a dream come true for our team and for me personally. I’ve been coaching some of these players since they were 11 years old and getting to play alongside them as a team and win our first ever medal in tennis for our country, and that being gold, is just unbelievable.”
Guam tennis veteran Daniel Llarenas who, along with younger teammates Camden Camacho and Mason Caldwell, won his country’s first tennis medal in the men’s teams event.
“I’m lost for words. To think two years ago no one (in Fiji) really knew what triathlon was and now we have medalled again, and this time winning bronze in the mixed team relay.”
Fiji triathlon team coach Angus Pattie, whose daughter Katie and teammate Christian Rokoua won an unexpected medal in the mixed team event.
“Eight years ago (at Port Moresby 2015) I did the Pacific Games triathlon and I got a flat tyre (on the bike). Four years ago at Samoa 2019 I came second behind someone who was better. And today, I’m very happy to win gold and I think I deserve it. For me, it was gold or nothing today.”
Tahiti’s triathlon specialist Salome De Barthez De Marmorieres on winning the gold medal she has been chasing for eight years.
“The other teams were very strong, but I think the thing that we call ‘tahui’, the union between our team, is what made us win this race.”
Tahiti’s V6 gold medallist Kahea Taie explains the spirit behind his team’s va’a dominance.
“I’m getting up to 16 years in weightlifting and now at the age of 40, I always told myself that age doesn’t matter and I can continue on, but this will be my last Pacific Games.”
Solomon Islands weightlifting icon Jenly Tegu Wini, who left the Pacific Games stage on a high by winning three gold medals.
“I am also thankful to the Samoa weightlifting head coach, Jerry (Wallwork), because you always bring out these new boys from Samoa, and they are always very good, and that’s what keeps me having my honest work, and I don’t like to relax too much.”
New Zealand weightlifting gold medallist David Liti credits his opposition for his success.
“My name originates from RAMSI (Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands) – my dad was a peace keeper and officer here in 2006 and a week after I was born, he came to Solomon Islands. I feel very honored not only to represent my country on an international level, but to get to see where my name comes from and the beautiful people here.”
Niue weightlifter Ramsi Edwards on the privilege of competing in the country she is named after.
“If you want to do something, you have to go for it. You have to sacrifice a lot of things so keep fighting, no matter the ups and downs and the tears. Keep going and they will be worth it at the end.”
Marshall Islands weightlifter Mathlynn Sasser, who set a new Pacific Games record on her way to gold.
Pacific Games News Service