17 Jul 2019

Pacific Games: Pacific sprint King and Queen retain titles

6:27 am on 17 July 2019

Banuve Tabakaucoro and Toea Wisil remain the fastest man and woman in the Pacific after defending their 100m titles in Samoa last night.

Banuve Tabakaucoro set a new Pacific Games record in the men's 100m final.

Banuve Tabakaucoro set a new Pacific Games record in the men's 100m final. Photo: Pacific Games Service Alvaro Hoyos

Fiji's Tabakaucoro set a new Pacific Games record of 10.31 seconds to hold off the challenge from hometown duo Jeremy Dodson and Kelvin Masoe to win his third straight gold medal in the event.

"It feels good to come out here and defend my title. It's been a tough few weeks, especially trying to perform to the expectations of the crowd back home."

"This is a title that's been in Fiji since even before I was born so I'm just glad to come out here and defend it once again," he said.

"This is probably the strongest competition I've had from the Islanders - Jeremy Dodson, Samoa, and Kelvin (Masoe) their local boy. When you have strong competition like that the times are going to drop and eventually you're going to run quicker."

The 26 year-old only recently returned to the sport following two years playing sevens rugby and said it's been quite the journey.

"My PB is 10.2 seconds and so now we're sitting at 10.31 so I'm pretty happy where we're at right now."

"You don't see many stories like this where people come back from other sports and perform this well on track and field o I'm pretty pleased with where I am right now."

PNG's Toea Wisil defended her women's 100m title.

PNG's Toea Wisil defended her women's 100m title. Photo: Pacific Games Service Roland Setu

Papua New Guinea's Toea Wisil set a new Pacific Games record of 11.50 seconds in the heats before going on to clinch a third consecutive Pacific Games title in 11.56.

"I feel good to be winning and I broke the South Pacific record (after trying) for a long time and back to form again so I'm happy with my performance tonight," she said.

The 31 year-old Wisil made her Pacific Games debut when Samoa last hosted the event in 2007 and said it's been a welcome return.

"I was 19 years old and I came and win the bronze medal and ended coming back to winning again and it's a good memory on this track too and winning a gold medal is real amazing," she said.

Fiji's Heleina Young took home the silver medal, finishing in 11.82 seconds, with Papua New Guinea's Leonie Beu claiming bronze in 11.94 seconds.

Both Banuve Tabakaucoro and Toea Wisil will be back in action later today, defending the men's 200 and women's 400m titles.

Home-town Support

Samoan sprinter Jeremy Dodson and his mum Peggy Dodson-Mauala.

Samoan sprinter Jeremy Dodson and his mum Peggy Dodson-Mauala. Photo: Vinnie Wylie/RNZ Pacific

Samoa's Jeremy Dodson wasn't able to bring home the gold medal but said competing in front of a home crowd for the first time was an unforgettable experience.

The 31 year-old was born and raised in the United States but qualifies for Samoa through his mother, who is from the village of Malie.

Dodson first represented Samoa four years ago but said to compete in Samoa in front of a Samoan crowd was an incredible experience.

"It was amazing. I've been to the Olympics, I've been to world championships, I've raced against Usain Bolt but I told everyone this was probably the most exciting race I've ever been in. Although it didn't have the outcome I wanted the crowd and the atmosphere was the same calibre as probably the Olympics was."

Jeremy Dodson's debut race on Samoan soil was made extra special by the presence of his mother, Peggy Dodson-Mauala, in the Apia Park crowd.

"It's a dream. I'm glad that everything has worked out because I'm a Samoan and I want my son to represent where I came from and where I was born and that's the highlight," she said.

The 2016 Olympian previously represented the USA at world championships and the Pan American Games but said switching his allegiance to Samoa is the best move he ever made.

"When I was with the US it was mainly representing myself with a USA on my chest - now it's representing Samoa with me behind the wheel. It's a completely different sport, it's become a different motivation, it's become a larger project long-term in the future."

"I'm happy that I made that change and I can't wait for the future to happen. Right now it's fun and games and I'm still enjoying an athletic career but after I'm done with this I can't wait to see what I do to help out Athletics Samoa and all the Pacific Islands."

Jeremy Dodson will be back on the track today competing in his favourite event, the men's 200m.