Papua New Guinea is determined to defend their Pacific Mini Games title this month, having topped the medal count in Wallis and Futuna four years ago.
93 athletes will compete for Team PNG across 10 sports in Vanuatu, including sprint queen Toea Wisil and Commonwealth Games weightlifting champion Steven Kari.
Chef de Mission Emma Waiwai said after hosting the 2015 Pacific Games, where they also topped the medal tally, there’s less pressure on Papua New Guinea, but still a strong desire to win.
“The important thing for us is coming here and trying to defend our title that we got four years ago,” Waiwai said.
“It would be good if they came back and also cemented their positions by winning those medals again or even bettering — those who got the bronzes and the silvers.”
PNG have not entered athletes in the football, rugby sevens, archery or judo events.
Emma Waiwai believed they still have a host of medal prospects.
“Definitely in athletics, definitely in the weightlifting, in boxing and they’ve introduced the 3-on-3 basketball and our teams did well at the Melanesian Cup just recently,” she said.
“That was 5 on 5 but they’ve got the best athletes from there so we look good in winning basketball as well — even netball because we don’t have Fiji and Samoa...but otherwise in all sports we still feel we’re going to pick up medals in them.”
Waiwai expected New Caledonia, Fiji and hosts Vanuatu to be their main rivals in Port Vila, with regular contenders Tahiti having opted to boycott the Games.
PNG SISTERS KICKSTART WEIGHTLIFTING GOLDEN HAUL
Sisters Thelma and Dika Toua raked in six gold medals for PNG in Monday morning’s opening session of the Vanuatu 2017 women’s weightlifting event.
Dika set a new Pacific Games record, lifting 110kg in the clean and jerk in the women’s 53kg, and picking up a clean sweep of gold medals in the snatch, clean and jerk, and overall.
Younger sister Thelma, competing in the women’s 48kg, lifted 65kg in the snatch and 85kg in the clean and jerk to claim the three gold medals on offer. “We knew we were going to take back three medals each, and the performance today was on top of it and we’re really happy,” said a very confident Dika, who showed a great deal of power and grit.
While the sisters have won medals together in the same event before and support each other in competition, they also say they remained focused on themselves as individuals.
Dika expressed some disappointment over her performance in the snatch, but was all smiles about setting a new milestone in the clean and jerk, adding to her growing list of records.
Younger sister Thelma expressed her delight in winning the very first gold medal at these Games and propelling PNG to the top of the medal tally.
Dika said the sisters hope to be role models for young girls and women around the Pacific as they continue to break down barriers and use their weightlifting platform to change people’s perspectives on women’s ability to compete in elite sport after becoming mothers.
“I am a mother of two and I think for mothers who have come back after having their babies…there are changes happening in the Pacific. Before, we used to think that when you’re married and have children that’s it for you, but now it haschanged and I think I’ve broken that barrier, and I’m glad that the ones [female weightlifters] coming behind me are following that trend,” said Dika.
PNG’s weightlifting medal haul continued on Monday afternoon, with Morea Baru claiming three golds in the men’s 62kg snatch, clean and jerk and overall.