Matai Akauola's diary - 9th September
Pacific Games diary by Matai Akauola
Bon jour, it is Friday and the sun is up early this morning here in Noumea, New Caledonia.
There’s two more days to go in the 14th Pacific Games.
Hosts New Caledonia continues to race away from the rest on the medal table while Papua New Guinea has leaped ahead of Fiji into third spot.
Fijian fans have been disappointed that the team events have not produced the expected results and so they’ll be returning with a bag full of bronze medals.
It is good to know that the Sports Minister from Samoa, Ministry of Sports officials from Fiji and other countries are still around to see for themselves what governments need to do in assisting their sporting teams prepare for these games.
The New Caledonians have really taught us a simple lesson; champions don’t just appear out of the woodworks.
They are trained and groomed and like a good knight they will have to fall off their horse several times to become the best.
Like that proverbial saying “whatever you sow you will reap” and the New Caledonians are reaping what they have been putting in for years and months.
You can’t say the same for most of our other island countries.
For some preparation just started 12 or 6 months ago and will be lucky to be returning with even a bronze.
In saying that there are some smaller sports who have been doing their own thing behind the scenes especially sports such as shooting winning six gold medals, weightlifting seven gold medal, karate, swimming, badminton, squash, va’a, bodybuilding and archery,
The high profile sports- rugby 7s, basketball, volleyball, soccer, athletics and golf have had disappointing outings here in Noumea.
Apart from the preparation time, there are other elements such as favouritism and the politics in each individual sports, some look good on the outset but when you probe the cracks begin to surface.
In my rounds yesterday I was trying to catch up with Tina Rex Cooper of Niue who was a representative to the 1963 Pacific Games.
Instead, I caught up with Miriama Tuisorisori who became Miriama Chambault. She was at Numa Daly Stadium to watch young Banuve Tabakaucoro run in the 200m final.
She now works for the Ministry of Overseas Territories based in Paris but is here in Noumea this week as a volunteer.
Miriama was a champion sprinter in her own right representing Fiji and later New Caledonia in the long jump, 100m hurdles, 100m, 200m and relays.
She’s got an interesting history having competed for Fiji at the 1969 South Pacific Games in Papua New Guinea winning gold in the long jump. She was just 17 attending Cuvu Methodist High School.
She passed her Fiji Junior Certificate and went to New Zealand where she became the New Zealand 100m hurdle champion clocking 12.8sec.
Miriama who hails from Nalebaleba Village in Nadroga, Fiji has gone on to represent Fiji at the 1971 SPG in Tahiti, 1975 in Guam where she won five gold, 3 silver and a bronze.
She also represented Fiji to the 1974 Commonwealth Games in New Zealand.
In 1976 she became the first woman from the Pacific Islands to compete at the Olympic Games in Montreal, Canada.
“I was the flag bearer and captain. There was myself and Tony Moore junior.”
She then got married to a New Caledonian and settled in Noumea.
Miriama represented New Caledonia at the 1979 SPG in Suva winning three gold medals and also represented her new found country to the 1983 SPG in Apia, Samoa.
“I remember the 1979 Games in Suva because I received my medal from Princess Margaret of England,” said Chambault.
After representing New Caledonia in 1983 to Apia, she was chosen to represent Fiji at the 1984 Olympic Games.
She later represented France at the World Champions years later.
“The Pacific Games is different from any other competition in the world,” said the former Olympian.
“These games are always full of fun that is what’s unique about our games.”
Miriama believes that other island countries can learn something from the way New Caledonia has structured sports in the country.
She noted how New Caledonia’s Pacific Games Organisers officials have tried to get the games to the outer islands and she believes other nations can learn from this.
Even for places like Fiji, Solomons or PNG, she says that sports must be taken out of the main centers to the outer islands and the highlands.
Miriama will be at the main stadium again today for the relays.
As we come to almost the end of the 14th Pacific Games, some people will miss the closing ceremony tomorrow night in Anse Vata, just close to our hotel.
Various charter and normal flights will depart tomorrow.
My friends from Oceania National Olympic Committee (ONOC) who have been here for anti-doping tests and the Voices of the Athletes (VOA) programme will be jetting off tomorrow morning.
So until you hear from me again, ‘a toute lheure’ in other words catch you later.