Tahiti continued to dominate the table tennis events at the Sol2023 Pacific Games at HCC Arena on Friday, and set up an exciting battle in the mixed doubles which saw two twin sisters clash for gold.
With the mixed team competition having been whittled down from 64 teams to just four semi-finalists, it was three teams from Tahiti and a pair from New Caledonia who made the final cut.
The New Caledonia’s Jerome Morisseu and Julie Wanegui had overcome the resilient Papua New Guinean (PNG) pair of Geoffrey Loi and Geru Lohia 3-2 in a highly contested five-set quarter-final.
The three Tahitian pairs had all progressed to the semi-finals with more comfortable scores of 3-0, 3-1 and 3-1 respectively over their opponents, all from Fiji.
The semi-final matches saw the young Tahiti pair of Ocean Belrose and Kelley Tehatetau going up against the experienced Morisseu and Wanegui from New Caledonia, while the other match was an all-Tahitian affair of Kenji Hotan and Keala Tehahetau going up against a equally determined pair of Hugo Gendron and Heimoe Wong.
Tahiti won 3-1 while, in the other match, Kenji and Keala powered past their countrymen 3-0 to set up a memorable gold medal match in which the Tehahetua twin sisters will face off for their second gold medal in table tennis events.
Speaking after the semi-final, an elated Tahiti Table Tennis President Heifara Lanteires couldn’t hide his excitement about the win. “We have a goal of winning all medals in the event with our young team,” he said.
When asked what it meant for the twin sisters to line up opposite each other playing for the gold medal, he remarked: “They are used to playing against each other. The win would be for the team and the country.”
The bronze medal match saw the young New Caledonian pair sweep aside their more experienced opponents in a one-sided game (3-0) while the gold medal match took much longer to complete but Belrose and Kelley Tehahetau claimed the gold from their equally determined opponents with a score of 4-1.
When asked about the clean sweep of medals in the event, Tahiti’s table tennis coach echoed similar sentiments to Lanteires. “I am very happy we won all the medals in mixed doubles. It’s very good because we worked hard for it. There were a lot of preparations made before the Games, so it has paid off”.
Wanegui accepted their pair losing in the bronze medal match. “They were better and were too strong. We have to learn from this loss,” she said.
In Friday’s other table tennis events, both men’s and women’s singles completed their round of 16 matches while men’s and women’s doubles, and men’s and women’s class 1-5 and 5-10 all completed their quarter-finals.
A dramatic final day of competition is scheduled for Saturday with finals to be played in eight events: men’s doubles, women’s doubles, men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s singles class 1-5, men’s singles class 6-10, women’s singles class 1-5 and women’s singles class 6-10.
It promises to be a day filled with exciting competition as Vanuatu’s women lead by veteran table tennis player, Pricilla Tommy will square up against the Tahitian women’s team inspired by the Tehahetua twins, who have bagged gold and silver medals in their first ever Pacific Games event.
Play begins at 9am at HCC Arena.
By Donaldson Saepioh, Pacific Games News Service