Historic GC2018 Performance by Vanuatu Athletes Highlights Sports Development Progress
Vanuatu has recorded an historic result at the 2018 Gold Coast XXIst Commonwealth Games held in Australia over the past 12 days, finishing with two medals and three personal best performances.
This is the Pacific nation’s best result in its 36 years as a member of the Games family.
On Monday 9 April, Friana Kwevira put her name in her nation’s history books with a 24.54m throw in the F46 Javelin competition, a distance which secured her the bronze medal – Vanuatu’s first.
In the same event, team-mate Marceline Moli threw a distance of 16.17m, a personal best for the young 15 year-old.
The third of Vanuatu’s para-athletes, Dephnny Naliupis finished off what was a resoundingly successful inaugural parasports campaign with a personal best time of 26.49secs in the Women’s T35 100m Final against a strong and diverse international field in this classification.
Vanuatu’s four able-bodied track athletes were each entered in two events and performed well on the big stage, often in front of crowds numbering over 20,000.
The action kicked off on Sunday where Roslyn Nalin competed in the Women’s 100m heats and Bradley Toa stepped up in the Men’s 400m heats. Both performed well gaining invaluable international experience with the runs.
Nalin then joined Valentine Hello on Day 5 in the Women’s 400m where Hello ran a PB of 58.62secs.
Toa completed his GC2018 outing with a run in the Men’s 200m on Tuesday while Hello also tested herself against experienced international competitors in the 800m.
Vanuatu’s lone male field athlete Jack Nasawa, stepped up to the line in the Men’s Javelin with his third and final attempt being his longest at 56.12m, placing him eleventh.
As the nation’s last competing athlete, young Simon Charley was loudly cheered to the finish line by an appreciative crowd in the fast-paced 3000m Steeple Chase which saw him finish in 11th place behind a dominant Kenyan trio who won all three medals.
The race had taken more out of the 18 year-old than anticipated and he withdrew from the 10,000m race scheduled for later in the evening.
Initial expectations for the nation’s first medal had laid squarely with the experienced pair of Linline Matauatu and Miller Pata in the Beach Volleyball competition, but with Kwevira’s success early in the week, some of that pressure was lifted for the Oceania champions.
Cruising through the group rounds with easy wins against Singapore and Rwanda, the women stumbled against New Zealand going down in two straight sets in their final pool game.
That result set them up to play England in the quarter final – a match which will be remembered by the Vanuatu team as perhaps a key moment in their campaign when they sat at one set all and had to dig deep in the nail-biting third set to take a three-point 15-12 victory in front of a packed stadium for whom they had become the sentimental favorites.
Moving into the semi-final, the scenario the ni-Van women had hoped to avoid had emerged – a clash with the popular Aussie pair of Mariafe Artacho Del Solar and Taliqua Clancy.
Despite the hometown favorites having the crowd on side in numbers, Pata and Matauatu were loudly and proudly supported by the small group of Team Vanuatu athletes, officials and friends in the stands.
Again, going to a third set decider, the Aussies were too strong in a match which could have gone either way from the outset.
On the last night of competition at the Coolangatta venue, the men’s finals matches had already set the tone for a stadium-shaking conclusion in the women’s medals finals.
Taking on a Cyprus team which had been impressive through the week, Vanuatu looked in control from the first serve.
In what was, to their credit, a determined and convincing two-set (21-14, 21-10) victory over the European team, Pata and Matauatu delivered both a long-awaited personal as well as national triumph in collecting the bronze medal behind Canada (Gold) and Australia (Silver).
Vanuatu was also represented in Boxing and Table Tennis by seven of its 18-athlete contingent.
Boe Warawara and Gill Kalai did not make it past the Round of 16 in their 56kg and 52kg divisions respectively, while lightweight Berry Namri was defeated in his quarter-final against Ranasinghe in the 46-49kg division – all three fought well and represented Vanuatu with pride.
In Table Tennis, the success of this familiar national squad in the 2017 Pacific Mini Games just five months ago, had set them up to be competitive on this bigger world stage.
The Table Tennis fixture is a long one with competition running across all 11 days of the Games in several combinations.
While the performance in the Team fixture was not enough to get them past the first round, the pairing of Anolyn Lulu and Yoshua Shing defeated Tanzania three sets to one in their opening Mixed Doubles match, before being downed by Australia in the Round of 32.
Priscilla Tommy and Ham Lulu were unable to get past Guyana in that competition but Tommy’s combination with Anolyn in the Women’s Doubles brought early round success over Tanzania before losing to a strong England pairing in the next round.
Shing and Lulu were unable to progress past the opening round of the Men’s doubles, going down three sets to one against Ghana.
In the Singles competition, Stephanie Qwea fought hard in her opening games but fell to both Mauritius and Kenya, each four sets to one, while Anolyn Lulu had a big win in four straight sets over fellow Oceania nation Solomon Islands before succumbing to the strength of Ghana four sets to one.
Tommy was the most successful of the females making it through to the Round of 32 with two strong straight sets victories before losing to Australia’s Jian Fang Lay.
The Vanuatu Men both started their Singles campaigns strongly with wins over Tuvalu and Bahamas for Shing and Lulu respectively, before both stumbling in their second matches.
The 18-strong squad performed well producing Vanuatu’s best overall result at a Commonwealth Games and will return home to a ‘Heroes Welcome’ on Tuesday.
This success could not have been delivered without the strong support on the ground from Chef de Mission Mike Masauvakalo, the team officials and coaches who made up the complete Vanuatu squad.
The athletes were also grateful for the strong support they received from the Prime Minister in the opening days of competition as well as CGA and VASANOC executives who were in attendance at every event in which Vanuatu participated.
The overall performance in this competition will stand Vanuatu in good stead as it prepares for the next major international competition - the Samoa 2019 Pacific Games in July next year.