The 12-woman PNG crew clocked 2 minutes, 26.61 seconds at the Lancron Naval Base venue to just edge the Tahitians and win PNG’s first ever gold medal in va’a.
Captain Xenia Peni was totally overwhelmed with the victory.
“For us to do it in front of our families and home country, we are so honoured and privileged to be representing our country. The current is really strong but we have been training so hard and we know how to read the waters and it just work really well for us,” said Peni.
“We were really disappointed with the disqualification in the 1500m this morning and to come out and win the gold in V12 against the Tahitians who are the world champions, it’s such a great feeling.”
Fellow gold medallist Nelly Tetaga was also ecstatic.
“This is so unbelievable, no words can explain this feeling,” Tetaga said. “It is amazing, just out of this world, as everybody gave everything they’ve got.”
Tahiti finished 0.09 seconds behind PNG in 2:26.70 seconds while bronze went to Fiji in 2:42.51.
Tahiti coach Tamatoa Perez said the team was upset with the defeat, but it was not without its positives.
“This is the first time Tahiti has lost the gold medal (in this event) at the Pacific Games,” Perez said. “But today we all won something.”
“As athletes, as coaches we still have a lot of work to do, not only at the highest levels but at kids levels too as we have to reinforce our values.”
“Today we benefited from a lesson of humility. These ladies from PNG have fought for their country and with their country. They had rage in their eyes, and it means that the end doesn’t justify the means.”
In the men’s V12 500m, Tahiti won gold, as expected, in 1:59.94 ahead of New Caledonia (2:02.01) and Wallis and Futuna (2:02.71).
Tahiti skipper Tamatea Bourgerie was pleased with the effort of his crew.
“We gave all we had until the very end we won this medal,” Bourgerie said. “It was a great race for Tahiti and for friends who are now in Tahiti and are thinking about us.”
In the men’s V1 500m final, Tahiti’s Tuatini Makiroto-Piritua won gold in 2:35.47 with 2011 champion Titouan Puyo (NCL) taking silver and Jacky Tuakoifenua from Wallis and Futuna bronze.
Brenda Vaimiti Maoni took out the women’s V1 500m event in 3:05.48 seconds almost 7 seconds ahead of Lovaina Tetuira (NCL) with 43-year-old Serena Hunter (COK) a further second behind winning bronze.
Va’a competition will resume on July 10 at Ela Beach with two days of long distance events: the women’s V1 10km and men’s V1 15km on Friday and the women’s V6 20km and men’s V6 30km on Saturday.
GNS mj/ic/pg/ Games News Services