New Caledonia, Tahiti take gold in first day
The established Pacific Archery nations New Caledonia, Tahiti and Fiji have lived up to their formidable Games reputations, withstanding a stiff challenge from competitors from newer nations to capture the lion's share of the opening day medals at Faleata.
The opening day's play under fine conditions saw New Caledonia win three of the four gold medals, with Tahiti taking one gold. Fiji took 2 silver and newcomers Samoa took home two bronze.
The archery fields were graced with the attendence of His Highness the Head of State Tuiatua Tupua Tamasese Efi and numerous Government ministers, as well as media from around the world eager to catch a glimpse of the high profile Samoan competitor, Prime Minister the Hon. Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi. Many left the field thrilled with the efforts of the local team who heralded their arrival to Pacific archery.
In the Men's Recurve, Fiji's Robert Elder led after 90m and 70m rounds, with Tahiti's son and father combination Tearii and Teiva Winkelstroeter both closely following. However Teiva Winkelstroeter was the better archer over the course of the afternoon to win gold with 1174 points, edging out Robert Elder on 1172 in a fingerbiting finish, with Tearii Winkelstroeter finishing with bronze on 1148 points. An early charge by Samoa's 16 year old sensation Andrew Ah Liki was not sustained over the course of the day, although the 16 year old Ah Liki, who is eligible to compete in 'cadet' class, proved his immense potential amongst the seniors.
In the Women's Recurve, Isabelle Soero of New Caledonia gained a valuable early lead which she defended to win gold on 1137. New Caledonia's Sylvena Plazenet and Samoa's surprise package Pualele Atoa-Craig both finished on 1103, but on a count-back the silver medal was awarded to Plazenet who narrowly edged out Atoa-Craig by 20 'bullseye' 10s to 19, making it a New Caledonia gold-silver. Another narrow finish which left the crowd entertained and the officials practicing their arithmatic.
The event which held the eyes of the world media, the Men's Compound, kept intact its reputation as a high scoring affair. Another tight result after two rounds saw Laurent Clerte and Henri Shiu, both of New Caledonia, locked in an equal lead. However Laurent Clert forged ahead to give New Caledonia a further gold, with 1329 points, with Henri Shiu taking silver on 1301, for another New Caledonia gold-silver finish. However the surprise of the event was the strong performance of Samoa's Eddie Chan Pao who took bronze with 1297 to show great consistency and nerve for a relatively inexperienced archer. Samoa's other competitor in the event, one Hon. Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi, remained focussed despite considerable media attention to finish midfield with 1037 points, another fine performance from a relative newcomer to archery.
The Women's Recurve witnessed another strong challenge from less-established archery nations against the region's powerhouses, with Fiji's Shanti Cook struggling to defend her 2003 Suva gold, and an encouraging early performance from local hope Vaimasenuu Zita Martel of Samoa. However again the course of the long afternoon sorted out their relative merits, with Emmanuelle Guihard of New Caledonia taking gold with 1239 points, over 2003 Games gold medallist Shanti Cook with silver on 1202 and a third place to Martel of Samoa, although no bronze was awarded due to there being only 3 competitors.
The story of day one could be summed up as an challenge by Samoa to the more experienced New Caledonia, Fiji and Tahiti as competitors settled their nerves and settled down to what may be the tightest competition in Games' archery yet.