It was gold for two sporting siblings in the table tennis events at the Mini Pacific Games in Rarotonga on Wednesday 30th September 2009; however, they were not partners.
Ham and Anolyn Lulu of Vanuatu were the players in question; the former partnered Yoshua Shing to Men’s Doubles gold, the latter joined forces with Liopa Santhy to capture the top prize in the Women’s Doubles competition.
Anolyn Lulu and Liopa Santhy did not lose a single game for the entire Women’s Doubles competition.
In the semi final they defeated two sisters from the host nation, Louisa and Neke Manico 11-2, 11-6, 11-3 before disposing of the young Tahiti-Nui pairing of Tuarikirau Thunot and Brenda Lui 13-11, 11-8, 11-8 in the final.
Right handed Lulu and left handed Santhy were in harmony all the way, they played tighter, spun heavier and attacked faster than anyone who crossed their path and were clearly the best doubles combination in the field.
Consequently they deservedly became the 2009 Mini Pacific Games Women’s Doubles Champions.
En route to the final the Tahitians faced two other members of the Lulu family; Priscila Tommy and Stephanie Qwea are both their cousins. The final was nearly very much a family affair; however the Tahitians were able to win by the narrowest of margins in the fifth and final game. Tommy and Qwea are both defenders, with more matches together they will surely be a formidable pairing.
They held one match point in the semi final however they were unable to convert and the Tahiti duo were able to take their place in the gold medal match. The pairing of Thunot and Lui won 11-9, 10-12, 13-11, 6-11, 13-11 in a nail biting match.
Meanwhile the bronze medal will be going home with the Vanuatu cousins after they easily disposed of the Cook Islands sisters Louisa and Neke Manico in straight games 11-4, 12-10, 11-6. The heavy and consistent backspin play of the Vanuatu pair left the Cook Islanders searching for answers.
However, they could not find a solution and two of the three medals on offer are now possessed by Vanuatu.
No Games Conceded
In the men’s doubles top seeded Wang Qi and Richel Sen from Fiji had not conceded a game en route to the final, where they were to face third seeds Ham Lulu and Yoshua Shing from Vanuatu.
In the two semi-final duels, Wang Qi and Richel Sen had accounted for New Caledonia’s Jeremy Dey and Xavier Quinne 16-14, 11-7, 11-6 whilst Lulu and Shing had a much tougher test against Ocean Belrose and Tinihau-O-Terai Klouman from Tahiti-Nui.
An exciting contest developed lasting the full five games with plenty of entertaining and powerful table tennis exhibited. The match was locked at two games apiece and in the fifth game it was the Vanuatu team who stood firm to emerge victorious.
The final scores were in favour Vanuatu 9-11, 11-8, 11-8, 12-14, 11-6.
At the final hurdle it was Ham Lulu and Yoshua Shing who were firing on all cylinders. They found the combination of the defensive Wang Qi and offensive Richel Sen very much to their liking.
Time and again they plundered the defence of Wang Qi; Qi would chop heavy however both of the fired up Vanuatu team possess a powerful forehand and on countless occasions Richel Sen was left stranded as he attempted to block the bombs the Vanuatu pair were dropping. The final result was very comprehensive; Lulu and Shing ran away with the match 11-8, 11-8, 11-4 to emerge as the 2009 Mini Pacfic Games Men’s Doubles Champions.
The bronze medal playoff was an all-French speaking affair with Ocean Belrose and Tinihau-O-Terai Klouman from Tahiti-Nui taking on New Caledonia’s Jeremy Dey and Xavier Quinne.
Belrose and Klouman made the better start by winning the first game 11-3, however the match was quickly levelled when the New Caledonian’s won the second game 11-8. The Tahitians moved within one game of a bronze medal when they claimed the third game 11-6. It appeared as though the match would be headed for a fifth and final game when Dey and Quinne established a 10-6 lead in the fourth game.
However, within the blink of an eye Belrose and Klouman had won the next six points to win the game 12-10 and in doing so they claimed the bronze medal with a hard fought three-one victory.
Thursday 1st October 2009 is the final day of the table tennis events, with the men’s and women’s singles medals being decided. Matches will begin from the quarter final stage; for the gold medallists, glory, respect and a place in history awaits.
The matches will certainly be hotly contested. - By: Scott Houston, Ian Marshall
Yoshua Shing (left) and Ham Lulu (right), the winners of the Men’s Doubles crown in Rarotonga. Photo by Scott Houston.