The Path to 2017 has ignited the Spirit Within
Vanuatu sent a large team to Noumea in 2011 compared to previous ones, travelling the short distance from Port Vila, over the Loyalty Islands to New Caledonia, 540km away.
At these Games, Team Vanuatu placed 11th overall winning one gold, eight silver and eight bronze medals with eight different sports contributing to the medal tally.
This event would also claim a number of Pacific Games’ firsts:
Parasports were included in the program with Men's Shot Put (seated), Women's Shot Put (seated), Men's Javelin (Ambulatory) and the Men's 100m (ambulatory);
Cricket - where all matches were deemed by the International Cricket Council as ‘Official Internationals’ meaning participating countries had the opportunity to accumulate ranking points and the possibility of a move up into a higher ICC membership category;
Tennis saw the Oceania Tennis Federation using the Games as an official selection event for the Pacific Oceania Davis Cup (Men) and Federation Cup (Women) teams.
Tennis had a silver-lined competition with the Men’s Singles (Cyril Jacobe), Men’s Doubles (Cyril Jacobe and the Men’s Team (Cyril Jacobe, Gregory Jacobe, Aymeric Mara & Lorenzo Pineda) all winning silver medals.
However, Tennis would not be included in the Wallis & Futuna program, so these athletes would unfortunately have to wait another four years for their next opportunity.
Athletics delivered one silver medal through Arnold Sorina in the 800m (1:55.14s) with the quartet of Sorina, David Benjimen, Jimmy Nocklam and Moses Kamut once again securing the bronze in the 4x400m Relay (3:13.94s) for a Vanuatu National Record.
The Cricket Team picked up the bronze medal after a convincing victory over New Caledonia in the play-off match. New Caledonia scored 9/85 from their allotted 20 overs while Vanuatu took only 9.4 overs to score 87 runs without losing a wicket to claim the medal.
Judo added two bronze medals to the Team Vanuatu tally with Veronica Tari (48kg Division) and Amata Fiakafonu (78kg) performing well.
Another of the martial arts, Karate, saw a silver medal awarded to Steven Tarip Manaruru (60kg) with a bronze to Arnold Peato Lasalo (75kg).
Taekwondo - not to be left out of the celebrations - secured a silver medal through Holmes Kalfau Kalotrip winning in the 87kg Division.
Boxing also picked up a silver medal through Jean Nauka in the 49kg Division with two bronze medals being added Boxing’s total courtesy of Daniel Iata (60kg) and Fred Moia (69kg).
Table Tennis scored one silver medal in the Mixed Doubles, with Anolyn Lulu and Yoshua Shing being defeated by Tahiti. They also won a bronze medal for the Women’s Team Competition through the strong performances of Stephanie Qwea, Tracey Mawa, Pareina Matariki and Wai Yein Put.
Two years later, at the 2013 Wallis and Futuna Pacific Mini Games, Vanuatu would win two gold medals and six bronze.
Continuing the good form from Nouméa, the Vanuatu Women again won in Beach Volleyball, when Linline Matauatu and Joyce Joshua defeated PNG 2-0 in the final.
Gold was further added to the medal tally when Taekwando found success through Bruce Johnathan, winning the Lightweight Division. The Taekwando Team also won five bronze medals – Ian Tasso (Male 54kg), Herve Liquslili (Heavyweight Division), Men’s Team Competition, Augustine Simona (Women’s 53kg) and Ioli Lutrishia (Women’s 67kg Division).
The final bronze medal of the competition for Vanuatu was in Athletics, where the Women’s 4x100m Relay Team of Judithe Alatoa, Janice Alatoa, Anna Batick and Daphne Nalawas finished third in 50.32.
2015 Port Moresby
Next stop was the 2015 Pacific Games in Port Moresby. It is interesting to note that when the vote was taken at the 2009 Mini Games, Port Moresby was a narrow winner over Nuku’alofa by 25 to 22 votes.
The Men’s cricket team [pictured] won gold with four wickets to spare. The highest scorer was Nalin Nipiko with 49 runs. Their win ended PNGs dominance of the game since its introduction in Suva (1979).
Boxing, once again, won three bronze medals, this time going to Jean Nauka (Light Flyweight), Boe Warawara (Bantamweight) and Daniel Iata (Light-Welterweight).
Vanuatu’s combat athletes continued to have a great run with Karate collecting seven medals.
The outstanding performance being from Vamule Lango [pictured below] winning the Women’s Kumite 50kg gold with bronze in both the Individual Kata and Kumite Open Categories.
Silver medals went to Johnny Laau in the Kumite 84kg Division and Tumu Lango in the Kumite Open Male. Bronze medals were collected by Steven Manaruru (Kumite 60kg) and Tumu Lango (Kumite 75kg).
Table Tennis also continued to be a regular on the medal table with a silver medal going to Yoshua Shing in the Men’s Singles.
Both the Men’s Team (Alan Lam, Ham Lulu, Yoshua Shing and Randy Williams) and the Women’s Team (Rosana Abel, Anolyn Lulu and Stephanie Owea) won bronze while Para Ambulant athlete, Mary Ramel, won silver.
Taekwondo won two medals – a silver to Bruce Johnathan in the Individual 68kg Division, and the Men’s Team won the bronze.
Backing up their silver in Nouméa, Tennis again took two silver medals and a bronze.
The Men’s Doubles (Cyril Jacobe & Aymeric Mara) and the Men’s Team (Cyril Jacobe, Aymeric Mara and Leniker Thomas) both won silver while in the Men’s Singles, Cyril Jacobe won bronze.
Now Vanuatu is preparing to welcome all visiting teams to the second edition of the Mini Pacific Games to be hosted on Vanuatu soil – 24 years after the first one in 1993.
One of the fascinating stories will be how some of the athletes - with the benefit of months of training in China - combined with the ‘home-ground’ advantage will perform and if it will be reflected in the medal tally.
On 4 December, 23 nations and an estimated 2000 athletes, coaches and officials will celebrate the Opening Ceremony at Korman Stadium in Port Vila (Efaté).
There will be 14 different sports in competition with everyone keen to see how the newcomer to Pacific Islands’ competition – 3x3 Basketball – is accepted by the spectators looking ahead as one of the new inclusions in the Tokyo Olympics (2020).
While the football action will begin ahead of the official opening on Saturday 2nd December, Tennis and Table Tennis will join in on the following Monday, the day the Parade of Nations marks the beginning of an exciting 12 days of competition.
Ignite the Spirit Within