SOL23: New Caledonia’s Grangeon De Villele finishes with 13 swimming golds after open water races

Tahiti won two medals in the men’s 5km open water swim, while New Caledonia won two in the women’s. Photos: Gibson Dite’e, Pacific Games News Service

New Caledonia and Tahiti collected all available medals in the Sol2023 Pacific Games open water swimming races at DC Park on Saturday, however many competitors failed to finish the race within the regulation time limit.

The atmosphere was filled with excitement and nervousness for the swimmers. The races began amid droplets of light rain, but conditions were still good. The free event attracted strong support from spectators, offering encouragement as each swimmer made their way to the finish line.

In the women’s 5km open water swim, New Caledonia’s Lara Grangeon De Villele claimed her twelfth gold medal of the Games, finishing the gruelling race in 1 hour, 4 minutes and 26.37 seconds.

It was an incredibly tight contest for silver, however Grangeon De Villele’s New Caledonia teammate Maiana Flament (1:06:00.64) came in next to claim silver, less than a second ahead of Tahiti’s Lili Paillisse (1:06:01.32).

In a hard-fought men’s 5km open water swim, Nael Roux of Tahiti claimed gold (his third of the Games) setting a new Pacific Games record of 58 minutes and 39.88 seconds, just ahead of New Caledonia’s John William Dabin (58:46.43). Tahti’s Enzo Costa-Lacombe followed just three seconds behind to claim bronze (58:49.98).

Newly crowned champion Roux told the Pacific Games News Service: ‘I am very happy I won another gold medal, because my idol, (Tahiti’s) Rahiti De Vos got three gold medals at the last Pacific Games, and now I have won three gold medals like him”.

He concluded: “I have worked for four years for this competition and now I’m here and I have won three gold medals. We must believe in our dreams and work for our dreams”.

The 4 x 1.25km open water mixed relay saw New Caledonia (Grangeon De Villele, Flament, Dabin and Loann Cayuela) comfortably claim gold with a time of 1:06:46.53 and Tahiti (Paillisse, Deotille Videau, Roux and Costa-Lacombe) silver, almost 10 minutes behind them (1:16:04.17). No bronze medal was awarded as the other competing teams, Palau and Solomon Islands, did not finish within the time limit.

By Elron Dokese and Arnold Peter, Pacific Games News Service