SOL23: Tahiti win last two va’a races to cap off golden week

Friday saw the last races in an epic week of va’a contests. Photos: Brian Hagi, Pacific Games News Service

Tahiti signed off in style on the final day of Sol2023 Pacific Games va’a events, taking home two more gold medals in the men’s and women’s V6-24km marathon races at DC Park on Friday.

The race sees a team of six paddlers undertaking three laps of an 8km course, to cover a total distance of 24km.

In the first marathon race, the eastern Honiara fine weather created the perfect conditions for Tahiti’s women paddlers to finish in 1 hour, 58 minutes and 36 seconds, demonstrating strength and speed across the three laps.

Fiji slipped in behind, claiming silver with a finishing time of 2:05:13 seconds, followed by New Caledonia taking home bronze in 2:07:33.

In the afternoon, Tahiti’s men’s team hit the waters, claiming gold with a finishing time of 1:49:37. Six strong Fijian men paddled steadily to the finishing buoy, claiming silver in 1:56:58, while New Caledonia again settled for bronze (2:01:04).

Tahiti men’s va’a team captain, Temoana Taputu, told the Pacific Games News Service: “I feel so good to have won this race. We did the job with the six boys in this long distance, and in this race, we want to give this gold medal to the population of Tahiti. Thank you for your countless support for us during the Pacific Games”.

Taputu also acknowledged the Solomon Islands people for giving them the opportunity to paddle in their waters during the five-day event.

Despite being unsuccessful in their va’a campaign to secure a medal, Papua New Guinea (PNG) men’s team captain, Raka Meisi, said: “All of us in my team did our best; we tried our best to achieve our goals, but our expectations turned out differently.

“As a team senior paddler, I believe my boys will prepare, work hard on our training, and be ready to give our best for other future events, including the next Pacific Games.”

He further praised the event, seeing every Pacific Island country come together to compete and unite as one family, thanking the host for their display of fostering true spirit.

“Our dreams were not fulfilled in the race but we will not stop here; we’ll continue with our training to win medals in the name of our country,” he added.

Samoa women’s va’a team captain Jayde Leota also shared her experience. “This is my first time participating in the Pacific Games. Despite not getting a medal, I am really proud of our team, and we’ve had an amazing experience. We gave all we had in every race up against the Pacific’s best paddlers.

“After this, we’ve learned a lot from our races here and now; we can go back home and fix our mistakes, learn new techniques, and keep pushing forward and come back stronger and bigger next time.”

Other contenders in the V6-24km race were hosts Solomon Islands, Wallis and Futuna, Tahiti, Palau, Norfolk Island, Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, PNG, and Cook Islands.

By Elron Dokese, Pacific Games News Service