Northern Mariana Islands is a US territory in the north-western Pacific with a population of around 50,000. The islands will host the Pacific Mini Games in 2021.
Sixty-two year old Tony Stearns (NMI) kicked off the family’s participation at Port Moresby 2015 in the men’s triathlon on July 5. He finished second last, 34 minutes behind gold medallist Audric Lucini (NCL), 39 years his junior.
A day later Stearns and his 22-year-old daughter, Emma McCullough-Stearns (NMI), took to the waters of Port Moresby’s Fairfax Harbour to compete in sailing, 21 years after Tony and his wife, Janet McCullough (NMI), took part in the same event last time Papua New Guinea hosted the Pacific Games.
In 1991, Tony and Janet finished 12th out of 13 teams. In 2015, with Janet as coach, Tony and Emma finished 9th out of 10 teams.
“It has been incredible sailing with my daughter,” Tony Stearns told the Games News Service.
“It’s great being back in PNG because I really love it, and I think it’s the best place for the Pacific Games.
“Our goal in sailing was just to do our best, and we got a lot better each day, getting used to the wind and the boat. Just being out there and sailing well was really good, and we enjoyed seeing some old friends who we sailed against here 24 years ago.”
Daughter Emma had never sailed competitively before Port Moresby 2015, but was persuaded to join her father after the family were encouraged by Games organisers to participate in preparation for Northern Mariana Islands’ hosting of the Pacific Mini Games.“I’m definitely learning a lot,” she told the Games News Service. “It’s cool to see my progress going up and it’s fun sailing with my dad and having my mum as coach.”
This week Tony and Janet’s son, 19-year-old Clay McCullough-Stearns (NMI), is competing in beach volleyball with teammate Andrew Johnson. So far they have won one match and lost four.
“It’s a great experience being at the Pacific Games, and it’s even more of a great experience being able to experience it with my family,” Clay said.
“It was great watching them sail and it’s great having them here to cheer us on.”
None of team McCullough-Stearns came to Port Moresby 2015 expecting to win a medal, but they are fighting their own mini-battles with their closest rivals.
“One of our goals is to be the top team in the north Pacific, but Palau didn’t send a team so it’s between us and Guam,” said Clay McCullough-Stearns. “So far we’re playing our best and it’s good experience for us.”
While Clay and Emma are studying in the US, Janet and Tony remain in the Northern Mariana Islands, helping the territory prepare for the Mini Games.
“Sailing activity has really diminished on Saipan (the capital of Northern Mariana Islands) over the last several years, so we’re trying to get it going again,” revealed Janet.
“We’re looking forward to having everyone come to the Northern Marianas in six years for the Mini Games and hopefully sailing can be one of the events.”
By Joanna Lester, Games News Service