The 5th Yap Games Officially Opens With Theme The Road to 2018

The 5th edition of the Yap Games officially opened to a large crowd on Friday evening, July 17, 2015 at the Yap Sports Complex Gymnasium. With the next Micronesian Games closing in, Yap has begun plans in upping its game for the next few years before 2018—the year the state hosts the regional competitions for the very first time.

Fittingly, the opening ceremony of the V Yap Games was themed, "The Road to 2018". The Yap Sports Council and the 9th MicroGames Organizing Committee will be using the Yap Games as a platform to build public awareness and interest in the MicroGames, and to showcase Yap's growing capacity for hosting—starting with this Yap Games.

The V Yap Games opening ceremony was scheduled to begin at 6:00PM (but of course, adjusting for "island time"), beginning with the usual parade of officials, teams and supporters, followed by a program of speeches. This year, the Sports Office tasked a group with organizing the opening ceremony—to add some pizzazz, in other words. While the decision was made a week before the official opening of the Games, the group managed to put together the opening ceremony with some experimental demonstrations. This year, the opening ceremony featured music by DJ Hollo, hyped-styled emceeing by Tim Ruda, marching by FSM-FMI cadets, a projector screen and lighting effects, and more-than-the-usual decorations. The group admits that while they did come up with some good ideas to incorporate into the opening (more than feasibly possible), things could have been much better; but they agreed that this was a first, and that next time they'll put up a better spectacle worthy of the MicroGames.

Leading the parade were state and sports officials, followed by members of TEAM FSM recently returned from the XV Pacific Games in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. While they took their respective posts on the state and bleachers, the municipal and regional teams paraded into the gym, from Team NYO to Team Tamil. Afterwards, everyone stood for the FSM National Anthem, sung by the cadets of FSM-FSMI as they marched in and hoisted the Yap State and FSM National flags in honor of the state and national athletes. With everyone finally seated, MC Time Ruda introduced the Honorable Speaker Theodore "Ted" Rutun for his opening remarks. Speaker Rutun's remarks tied in with the theme of preparing for the road to the 2018 MicroGames in Yap, and that it would take the entire audience in the gym to pull off a successful hosting of the regional event.

The next part of the program was a segment acknowledging Yap's athletes. In a surprise twist, the Yap Sports Council presented a certificate of appreciation to a Tongan native who has lived in Yap for the past few years. Considered one of the finest athletes in Yap, James Jagroop also competed as a member of Team Gagil in multiple Yap Games, as well as Team Yap to the 8th MicroGames in Pohnpei. Before he departs Yap, the Council decided to acknowledge him with a small gesture of gratitude for his excellent sportsmanship and contributions to Yap.

The Yapese members of TEAM FSM were next recognized for their impressive achievements in the XV Pacific Games in Papua New Guinea. Yapese athletes that were part of TEAM FSM competed in Weightlifting and—a first for the FSM—Football (soccer) and Boxing. The courageous FSM National Football Team underperformed at the Pacific Games—so much so, they made international headlines, as well as inspiring the football community into action. Yapese football players included Dominic Gadad, Jacob Nam, Aaron Bayow, Jonothan Garayog, Devon Figirmow, Walter Pengelbew, Benjamin Gilmoon, and Javin Kognang, along with their coach, Stan Foster. In Weightlifting were Alvin J.G. Ruuemau and, of course, Manuel Minginfel. Olympian weightlifter Minginfel has competed in every Pacific-level games since his debut in the 1997 Mini Games in American Samoa, winning a total of 19 gold medals and 5 silver medals. He now adds three more medals to that tally, after winning 2 gold medals and 1 silver medal at the Pacific Games—making him the most decorated gold medalist in Pacific Games history. TEAM FSM also included boxers for the first time—and one of them was Yap's very own Jennifer Dugwen Chieng. At that moment of the opening ceremony, she was competing for gold in the Pacific Games in Papua New Guinea in the women's lightweight category—and later in the evening, winning the FSM their third gold medal in the XV Pacific Games. The opening ceremony was capped with an humble yet inspirational speech from Minginfel, and the acknowledgment of this year's Yap Games sponsors.

With the opening ceremony out of the way, it was a rush to prepare for the first events of the evening: Greco-Roman Wrestling in the gym, 14U Football for girls and boys on the football field, and Baseball on the baseball field. The sports officials and volunteers rushed to set up for wrestling in the gym after the opening. The first game of Baseball was between the teams from Fanif and Tamil; after five innings, Fanif won 10-7. The Football tournament kicked off with two 14U matches: Weloy vs. Tamil girls (3-0), and Weloy vs. Nimgil boys (2-5). Wrestling ended up taking up most of the night, finally ending half past 11PM; despite exhausting (and in a few cases, injuring) the wrestlers after nearly four hours of matches, those that prevailed won their respective teams their first medals of the V Yap Games.

As of Friday night, Team OI leads with four medals—two of which are gold—followed by Weloy in second place and Rumung in third. The wrestlers were to be presented with their medals after the Freestyle Wrestling event the next day, concluding the Wrestling tournament. The first weekend of the V Pacific Games will also feature the finals for Sailing, Swimming, and Women's Soccer, so upsets to the current medal tally is forthcoming. Baseball, Basketball, Football, Softball and Volleyball will continue to be the longest running  events of the Games, and will be the steady attractions before crowd-favorites such as the track & field events begin in the second week.

Good luck to all the athletes and teams as they journey on the road to 2018!


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