SPG archery ends with gold and friendship

After a close finish, archery competitors Pualele Atoa-Craig (SAM) and Isabelle Soero (NC) embrace
It is one on one - Emmanuel Guihard (NC) in action against  Vaimasenuu Zita Martel (SAM)

With a toast to Pacific archery from Prime Minister Hon. Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi and a first ever archery gold for Samoa, a close final day for SPG2007 archery exceeded expectations.

The final day's competition saw archers paired off in a knockout tournament in the Individual Matchplay.  There were tears of disappointment mixed with the shock of unexpected victory, but the common thread which will form a lingering memory will be of friendship and bonds stronger than mere competition.

The local highlight was a gold in the Women's Recurve event for Samoa's Pualele Atoa-Craig, with a last gasp 93 to 84 victory over New Caledonia's Isabelle Soero.  Soero's disappointment was short-lived as the two finalists embraced and the achievement of Atoa-Craig sank into the crowd, if not the archer herself.  In the bronze medal playoff Sylvana Plazenet of New Caledonia was victorious over day three gold medallist Daniele Gras of Tahiti.

"I had begun mentally preparing myself for gold in this event, although in the last few days I have had the 'flu and a fever" said Atoa-Craig.  "Yesterday in the team event I felt I lost it, as I could not pull my bow back properly because I was sick."

It was Atoa-Craig's first international tournament after six months' involvement in the sport. 

"I hope my gold medal is more encouragement for Samoan archers to be the main force behind archery in the next South Pacific Games, instead of New Caledonia and Tahiti!" said Atoa Craig.

The Men's Recurve went largely as ranking's and form would suggest, although nothing could have prepared us for the one-point margin in the final going in favour of gold medallist Teiva Winkelstroeter of Tahiti over Fiji's Robert Elder.  Joseph Walter of Samoa took bronze with outstanding shooting and signalled another strong Samoan presence in years to come.

In the Compound events, barely 7 points in total separated the Men's and Women's gold and silver medallists.  In an all-New Caledonian affair, Laurent Clert defeated Henri Shiu 113 to 108, and Samoa's Eddie Chan Pao narrowly won bronze from Yannick Leoce of Tahiti.  The Women's event was heartstopping with Samoa's Vaimasenuu Zita Martel finding gold taken from her grasp in the last arrow, scoring 83 to Emmanuel Guihard of New Caledonia's 85, to see the New Caledonian again winning gold with the compound bow. 

Zita Martel indicated that a sudden gust of wind prior to her final arrow made conditions very difficult, although the form of Guihard suggests that Zita Martel did very well to come so close.

After the medal ceremony Prime Minister and Samoan archer Hon. Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi paid tribute to the competitors, officials and volunteers which made the event such a success and apologised if the Samoan teams inexperience led to any inadvertent errors of archery protocol.  He also paid tribute to Samoa's coach from China, Zhou (Joe) Xiaojin, saying that it was he who enabled Samoa to do so well.  In a continuation of the warm personal relations carried throughout the tournament, the competitors then had well earned refreshments as thoughts turned to New Caledonia in 2011.

Source: Luke James.  1 September 2007


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