SOL23: Fiji share podium with Tahiti and New Caledonia at inaugural triathlon 2×2 mixed relay

Fiji reached the podium alongside favourites Tahiti and New Caledonia in this new Pacific Games event. Photos: Aaron Ballekom, Pacific Games News Service

A young and determined Katie Pattie (aged 16) and Christian Rokoua (17) from Fiji claimed bronze in the inaugural triathlon 2×2 mixed relay at the Sol2023 Pacific Games on Friday, finishig in 1 hour, 27 minutes and 32 seconds.

The duo took home the bronze behind silver medallists Mathieu Szalamacha and Celine Hirzel from New Caledonia (1:23:21), while favourites Benjamin Zorgnotti and Salome De Barthez De Marmorieres secured the gold (1:18:41)

Throughout the week, the Aquatic Centre has hosted the super sprint triathlon, an aquathlon event (running and swimming without the bike leg) and, for the first time in any Pacific Games, the 2×2 mixed relay.

Speaking to the Pacific Games News Service, Fiji’s team coach Angus Pattie, who is also Katie’s father, said: “I’m lost for words.  This is a young team that has only been together for a couple of years.

“To think two years ago no one really knew what triathlon was and now we have medalled again and this time winning bronze in the mixed-team relay.”

Angus Pattie also revealed that the young Fijian team claimed bronze in the triathlon teams event at the 2022 Pacific Mini Games in Saipan.

Standing beside her dad, a relived Pattie said: “I feel grateful to be able to represent my country. I’m thankful for this opportunity to race against these professional athletes and learn from them.”

When asked what motivated her to get into the sport, Pattie revealed: “My older sister did it and I started joining her and got into it.” Pattie’s sister, Sadie, is also a triathlete who has represented Fiji at previous Pacific Games.

Meanwhile, in the men’s aquathon event earlier in the day, New Caledonia’s Hugo Tormento caused an upset beating Samoa 2019 gold medallist Benjamin Zorgnotti with a time of 13 minutes and 26 seconds. Zorgnotti was forced to settle for silver (14:15), while Jean-Marc Rimaud from Tahiti bagged the bronze (15:10).

Speaking on behalf of Tormento, a very proud New Caledonian team manager Michel Quintin said: “I’m really happy about the result, Hugo did really well especially against the Tahitian (Zorgnotti) who is a world class athlete”.

Tormento also revealed that it was Hugo’s first time to compete in the aquathon competition. “Hugo is a professional swimmer and is also more used to long-distance running, so we didn’t know if he would do so well in this shorter aquathon race.”

In the women’s final, Salome De Barthez De Marmorieres from Tahiti, successfully defended her Samoa 2019 Pacific Games gold medal, cruising past the finish line in 16 minutes and 21 seconds. Not too far behind her was fellow national triathlete, Maidi Susset (16:33) while New Caledonia’s Benedicte Meunier settled for the bronze (16:58)

Friday marked the conclusion of the aquathon and triathlon events, but Saturday will see the Sol2023 men’s and women’s half marathons, starting at 5.45am.

By Walter Sale and Aaron Ballekom, Pacific Games News Service