Vanuatu Boxing took the lead in Pago Pago
In the 1997 Mini Games in Pago Pago, American Samoa, it was Boxing which won bragging rights over Athletics in the medal tally for Vanuatu.
With one gold, three silver and three bronze medals, Boxing pipped Athletics’ haul of one gold, one silver and three bronze.
The Boxing gold went to Moli Livo in the 51kg Division. The three silver medals went to Jimmy Yeon (54kg Division), Peter Tao (63.5kg Division) and Carl David (71kg Division) while bronze medals were won by Donny Alick (60kg Division), Samson Sam (67kg Division) and Kalie Jacabus (81kg Division).
In Athletics, the lone gold medal was won by Tawai Keiruan in the 3000m Steeplechase (9:30.86). Having a very successful meet, he added a silver medal in the 1500m (3:59.88) and a bronze in the 5000m (15:58.40) to demonstrate a good range in ability. He was the only individual medalist for Athletics Vanuatu.
Once again the relays proved to be good bronzed events for Vanuatu.
In the Men’s 4 x 100m the quartet of Baptiste Firiam, Jansen Molisingi, Laurence Jack and Jude Brown Tabeleo recorded the time of 42.11 seconds to take the third place.
The bronze medal in the 4 x 400m Relay was won by the quartet of Tavakalo Kailes, Jude Brown Tabeleo, Baptiste Firiam and Harrison Solomon in the time of 3:21.56.
In the absence of Mary-Estelle Kapalu, there were no female athletes from Vanuatu. She would, however, return just two years later in 1999 to be even more dominant than in previous games.
The final South Pacific Games of the 1990s were held in Guam.
At these Games, Guam was better prepared than they had been in 1975 and the Games proceeded smoothly.
Vanuatu won two gold medals, eight silver and 12 bronze, the success being spread across five sports.
Two team events brought bronze medals. Netball defeated Norfolk Island 41-36 in the play off for the third place while the gold was won by Fiji with a massive victory over PNG 60-32.
In Rugby Sevens, the Vanuatu Men defeated the Solomon Islands 26-7 with Fiji securing the gold medal with a 40-12 defeat of PNG.
These were Vanuatu’s first medals for both sports in Pacific Games competition.
Table Tennis finally found some medal success with three silver and two bronze.
The silver medals went to Wei-Yein Wong in the Women’s Singles, to Wei-Yang Wong and Anolyn Lulu in the Women’s Doubles and to the quartet of Kerian Mok, Wei-Yein Wong, Annolyn Lulu & Emmeline Lulu in the Women’s Team event. The bronze medal was won by Kerian Mok and Anolyn Lulu in the Women’s Doubles and Anolyn Lulu in the Women’s Singles.
Boxing won four bronze medals – Michael Manses (51kg Division), Obro Timakata (67kg), Eric Wassab (71kg) and Kalie Jacobus (75kg).
Karate secured five medals – three silver and two bronze. The silver medals were won by Stiphrile Siley in the Men 70kg, Henry Wolka in the Men 75kg and Noel Lango in the Men’s Open Division while the bronze medals went to John Lui in the Men 80kg and the Men’s Team Event.
The gold medals for Vanuatu came predictably from Mary-Estelle Kapalu who yet again won the 400m in the Games Record time of 54.30 seconds and the 400m Hurdles also in a Games Record of 48.90 seconds. Like she did in Tahiti four years before, she added a bronze medal in the 200m (25.16 seconds) and a silver in the 800m (2:18.33)
Tawai Keiruan won his 4th medal in the 3000m Steeplechase, this time securing a silver in a time of 9:45.23. The only other Athletics medal was to Lily Beth Hunai in the 1500m, where her third place won the bronze medal and a new Vanuatu National Record in 4:59.49.
The Golden 1990s was at an end and a new millennium beckoned.