In a clean sweep, Tahiti dominated the Sol2023 triathlon event on Thursday by claiming gold and silver in both the men’s and women’s divisions in Honiara.
And it was third time lucky for Tahiti’s Salome De Barthez De Marmorieres in her third Pacific Games triathlon, securing gold with a time of 32 minutes and 51 seconds. Her Tahiti teammate, fellow up-and-coming national triathlete, Maidi Susset, finished in 33:37 to claim silver and New Caledonia’s Celine Hirzel secured the third-place finish with a time of 34:29.
After her gold medal-winning performance, De Barthez De Marmorieres told the Pacific Games News Service: “I am very happy because eight years (at Port Moresby 2015) ago 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.”
When asked how she felt about the swimming leg being in a pool compared to open water, De Barthez De Marmorieres said: “This is my first gold medal in triathlon and I won a gold medal in aquathon in 2019. Swimming in the pool compared to open water is very different, especially when you’re not a good swimmer, because you cannot feel others’ feet and you’re alone and really have to manage your pace.”
Also among the women competitors was Andriana Tukuvia from Solomon Islands who came in ninth place. Following the race, an exhausted but proud Tukuvia, said: “I did not expect to be in the women’s final today because I was sick for almost nine months. Just a month before the Pacific Games we did our trial and I won it, so I got selected to compete.”
“I am so very happy to be part of this competition even though I did not have the best training in the lead-up. Today, I feel great and honoured for myself even though I didn’t meet everyone’s expectations. I am hoping my teammate Timson (Jude Irowane) and I will do better and win a medal in the aquathon relay race tomorrow.”
In the men’s final, Benjamin Zorgnotti from Tahiti successfully defended his Samoa 2019 gold medal, finishing with an impressive time of 29:26. In second place and bagging the silver was fellow countryman Jean Marc Rimaud with a time of 29:37, while the bronze went to New Caledonia’s Mathieu Szalamacha with a time of 30:31.
Speaking to the Pacific Games News Service, the seasoned Zorgnotti said: “Honestly, I was expecting the gold medal as I won four years ago, and I was the only professional out in the field. However, I was not as comfortable racing because of the heat”.
When asked if he had been thinking of setting a new personal best, the French Polynesian triathlete said: “No, I wasn’t running as fast as possible. It was more important for me to bring Jean Marc (Rimaud) as far as possible after the cycling so we could win gold and silver together.”
Among the finishers was sixth-placed Christian Rokoua from Fiji, a debutant in the race. When asked how he felt racing with the best in the region, Rokoua said: “This was a good experience as I just started participating in the sport two years ago”.
Rokoua also shared his aim to represent Fiji in the Brisbane 2032 Olympic Games, stating that it was his grandmother who inspired him to take up the sport.
The individual triathlon races have now concluded, and on Friday the Aquatic Centre will host the aquathlon races from 7am.
By Walter Sale and Aaron Ballekom, Pacific Games News Service