Superbly supported by the Indian manufacturer Stag, the venue in Raratonga is a splendid site. Photo By: Courtesy of Scott Houston
The Pacific Games is the pinnacle of sport in the South Pacific region, it is for the people of the Pacific Islands their Olympic Games, being held every four years in the year prior to the Olympic Games.
In addition to the Pacific Games, there is the Mini Pacific Games.
It is a smaller version of the Pacific Games and likewise is held every four years. Rarotonga in the Cook Islands is the venue for the event in 2009.
Competition commenced on Tuesday 22nd September and will conclude on Saturday 3rd October 2009.
Ten sports offered are offered in the Mini Pacific Games and there is fierce among the International Sports Federations to be part of this event.
Table tennis was finally accepted in 2005 after many years of lobbying and gained its place thanks primarily to the success of the Oceania Development Programme.
Now four years later, 10 nations are present from the Micronesian, Melanesian and Polynesian regions that comprise the South Pacific.
On day one of the women’s team’s event it was very much a case of the yesterday’s cadets graduating and today’s cadets showing their potential.
The most notable name was the host nation’s Louisa Manico. The 17 year old natural talent was part of Team Oceania at the World Cadet Challenge in Cape Town, South Africa in 2007; however on the first day of play, she was the dominant player in the team match against the highly rated Tahiti outfit.
She prevailed with three fine victories to give the Cook Islands some respectability in their six-three defeat. After this initial loss a team medal for the hosts will prove difficult; however, in the individual events, with strong home town support behind her, she will surely be in the mix.
The other noteworthy performance came from Atea Tetabo from Kiribati. The 17 year old right hander spearheaded Kiribati’s five-four upset victory against no. 3 seeds New Caledonia; this victory was even more of an upset as the Kiribati team was only able to field two players for the match; to pull off a victory under such circumstances surely deserves much credit.
Atea Tetabo was part of Team Oceania at the World Cadet Challenge in Funchal, Portugal in 2004. In addition to this she also had the opportunity to train in China and Australia to boost her playing level.
No doubt the previous international experience gained as well as training opportunities abroad played a key role in the fine performances of both Atea Tetabo and Louisa Manico; his again underlines the strength and results that the ITTF Development Programme has achieved.
Two current members of Team Oceania who will line up in Tokyo, Japan for the ITTF Cadet Challenge next month also made a positive start in their debut appearances for their respective women’s national teams’.
Stephanie Qwea from Vanuatu recorded two comfortable victories in their eight-one rout of Tonga. The 15 year old who uses a defensive style may be one to cause her opponents some agony in Japan.
Meanwhile, Carolyn Xuan Li from Fiji had a faultless debut appearance for Fiji. She came away with three well merited victories in their eight-one victory over the Solomon Islands. Being seeded no.1 and no.2 respectively, both Vanuatu and Fiji will be looking to make major inroads into the competition and these two young charges will have an important role to play.
In the men’s team’s competition, results went very much according to seeding.
Tonga proved no match for the strength of no. 1 seeds Fiji, going down nine-nil. It was the same score line for second seeds Tahiti as they only dropped two games on their way to a nine-nil victory over Samoa.
The extremely young team from American Samoa, all of whom are still cadets found life tough against the Solomon Islands also losing nine-nil. The final encounter saw Kiribati put in a respectable performance as they overcame host nation, the Cook Islands seven-two.
Heat of Competition
Both the women’s and men’s team’s events are being contested in two groups of either four or five countries, with the top two nations progressing to the knock-out semi finals on Friday.
The individual events begin thereafter. One thing is certain; there will plenty be of hot competition in this hot and humid climate!
Smiles from the Fiji team in Rarotonga
Photo courtesy of Scott Houston