The Sol2023 Pacific Games was elevated to new heights on Monday as women’s pole vault made its return after an eight-year hiatus at Honiara’s National Stadium.
And it was Solomon Islands’ Julian Sosimo who stole the show, claiming the silver medal with a final jump height of 2.10 metres despite having only tried pole vault three times before competing here.
The least experienced of the four competitors in the event, 26-year old Sosimo had the home crowd cheering for her as she successfully cleared 1.80m, 1.90m, 2.00m and her final height of 2.10m – surprising everyone by reaching the podium.
She told the Pacific Games News Service: “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”.
Sosimo revealed that, as a multi-event athlete who is also competing in women’s heptathlon at Sol2023, she could not resist the opportunity to try a new event once the apparatus arrived in Honiara for the Games.
“I liked the challenge to do pole vault and I have the strong heart and mind to do pole vault. It was both mine and my coach’s idea to do pole vault. I feel happy to jump in the pole vault and I felt confident.
“I will continue to jump in pole vault for Solomon Islands,” she told the Pacific Games News Service.
New Caledonia’s Pascale Gacon, the gold medallist from the last time women’s pole vault was contested at the Port Moresby 2015 Pacific Games, retained her title with a final jump height of 3.00 metres, which was 70 centimetres under her winning height in 2015.
Comparing this win to her victory in Papua New Guinea, the 40-year-old gold medallist said: “It wasn’t quite the same as in 2015, I’m not the same age, but I’m happy to have brought home the gold medal. That was the goal. I would have liked to have jumped a bit higher, but I wasn’t in the best of shape.”
Gacon, who looked to have suffered an injury also admitted some frustration. “I had a bit of pain in my Achilles tendon and that bothered me a bit, but it’s mainly because I barely touched the 3.20m so I’m a bit frustrated.”
Since 2015, Gacon has transitioned into motherhood and made her return to the Games and the New Caledonian team, but she said that her goal is to see more women and young girls competing in the sport.
“Coming back after two pregnancies is not the same thing. It was my little challenge but I’m really happy to experience this emotion too, because it’s great to be with the New Caledonian team, to be here, and to be able to jump again, that’s always a pleasure,” she said.
Speaking on the small number of competitors at this Games in pole vault, Gacon, a veteran and champion for women in the sport, admitted that it is sad to see only four women’s pole vault athletes here at Sol2023, but appealed to more girls to take up the sport ahead of the next Pacific Games, Tahiti 2027.
“I understand that it (pole vault) requires a lot of equipment costs and a lot of money, and you have to find coaches that know what they are doing so it’s not easy. It’s a discipline that often scares girls. It’s hard, even for me in New Caledonia. I’ve trained a lot of boys but it’s hard to get girls into the sport.
“I’d really like to go to Tahiti (Pacific Games 2027). I’m looking for young women, young girls to take over but until I find one, I will be there.
“I’m making an appeal, calling on all gymnasts, athletes and young girls who want to take up pole vault, I’m here to train you,” Gacon concluded.
Tahiti’s Tess Ayat, who looked to be on her way to securing a medal, could not clear a bar which handed Ateliana Magoni of New Caledonia the bronze medal with a jump height of 1.80m.
By Melissa Velvel Fare, Pacific Games News Service