• Jamal Vira (VASANOC)

Tahiti and 1995 was a troubled time in the French Pacific

Tahiti hosted the next South Pacific Games in 1995, but it was under somewhat of a cloud.

Like New Caledonia in 1987, tensions were still high due to the French Nuclear Testing on Mururoa and other Pacific Island atolls. The Tahitian protest leader, Oscar Temaru put it all in perspective however when he told all of the nations that the Games did not belong to France, they belonged to all of the people of the Pacific Islands. He welcomed everyone to his home island, and put many nervous teams at ease.

The Games were peaceful and went off without a hitch with the Vanuatu medal tally at three gold, six silver and ten bronze.

In Athletics, broadcaster Bob Snow said it was the highest overall standard he had ever experienced in his involvement in the sport since 1975.

“Anybody who won a medal in Athletics in the Stade Pater was truly a champion.”

Athletics contributed half of the Vanuatu medals and with only six lanes on the track, progressing to the finals of the sprint events proved to be somewhat of a challenge.

Tawai Keiruan won the gold in the 3000m Steeplechase in the time of 9:21.11 to defeat defending champion Davendra Prakash Singh (FIJ) in a tactical battle. The clash between these two was one of the highlights of the Athletics competition. Keiruan also won two middle distance medals in the 1500m (silver – 3:58.63) and the 800m (bronze – 1:52.91).

The depth of Vanuatu sprinting was evident in the two bronze medal performances in the Men’s 4 x 100m and the 4 x 400m Relays.

The 4 x 100m quartet of Frankie Mariello, Jansen Molisingi, Baptiste Firiam and Laurence Jack finished in third (41.26 seconds for a new National Record) behind sprinting powerhouses PNG and Fiji.

The four in the 4 x 400m Relay were Tavakalo Kailes, Jean-Pierre Tiopang, Tawai Keiruan and Baptiste Firiam and ran yet another National Record (3:16.09) to claim the bronze behind Fiji and PNG.

Mary-Estelle Kapalu, not to be outdone, expanded her events to four and for the first time claimed medals in the 200m (silver – 24.85 seconds for a NR), and the 800m (bronze – 2:13.69 for yet another NR). It was in her signature events, however, where she stamped her authority on the track.

In the 400m, Kapalu won by more than a second, in a new Games Record of 54.69 seconds. In the 400m Hurdles she won by more than five seconds in a new NR and Games Record of 59.65 seconds.

She owned these events in the 1990’s.

The Women’s 4 x 400m team of Kapalu, Odile Daruhi, Olivet Bice and Aline Mermer won a silver medal in the National Record time of 3:57.50.

Boxing contributed two silver and three bronze medals, continuing to punch above its weight in the South Pacific Games.

The two silver medals were won in the 48kg Division by R. Supa and the 51kg Division by T. Fred.

Bronze medals went to J. Iarwel (57kg), L. Malon (63.5kg) and Harry Kaloran (67kg).

Karate won three medals with Noel Lango winning silver in the 75kg Division and two bronze medals going to P. Nalau (65kg Division) and Stiphrille Sileye (Open Division).

Y. Hui won a bronze medal in the Women’s Single Table Tennis.

The festivities moved on to Pago Pago with the 1997 Pacific Mini Games in American Samoa.

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