4 Dec 2023

Pacific Games 2023: New Caledonia claims title as focus turns to Tahiti in 2027

11:06 am on 4 December 2023
The 2023 Pacific Games concluded with a vibrant closing ceremony at Honiara’s National Stadium on Saturday night. 2 December 2023

The 2023 Pacific Games concluded with a vibrant closing ceremony at Honiara’s National Stadium on Saturday night. 2 December 2023 Photo: Pacific Games News Service

The Solomon Islands were congratulated as the curtains fell on the 2023 Pacific Games in Honiara on Saturday, with 24 countries competing against each other in 24 sports over 16 days.

As New Caledonia topped the medal tally with a haul of 82 gold medals, which was seven gold medals more than what they won in Samoa in 2019, Tahiti were already celebrating being host in 2027, with their own gold medal haul of 57 to finish second.

Pacific Games council president Vidhya Lakhan said Solomon Islands had been great hosts, with the locals packing the stadiums daily to watch the action.

He thanked Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare and his government for ensuring the Games was held without any disruptions and for surpassing expectations in terms of participation, arrangements, venue quality, and competitive standards.

"The government and people of the Solomon Islands under the leadership of Prime Minister Sogavare, by hosting these games, not only united and strengthened the bond between the people of Solomon Islands, but also between the peoples of the Pacific," Lakhan said according to the Pacific Games Media.

"We commend you, Mr Prime Minister, for your vision, for your commitment and for your faith in your own people.

"We commend you in engaging a small band of experts with experience in delivering successful Pacific Games in the recent past, empowering and providing them with the necessary resources to deliver the Games."

Lakhan then called for the Pacific to prepare their best for Tahiti in four years time.

"I call upon the sportsmen and women of the Pacific to assemble in four years' time in Tahiti to celebrate the eighteenth Pacific Games. May you display cheerfulness and harmony so that the spirit of our Pacific family of nations may be carried on with great eagerness, courage and honour for the good of humanity and for the peace of the world," Lakhan concluded.

Saturday night's closing ceremony featured local volunteers who had been the silent stars of the event.

2023 Pacific Games medal tally at the end of competition.

2023 Pacific Games medal tally at the end of competition. Photo: RNZ Pacific

Tonga wins netball gold

Earlier in the day on the last day of competition, the final medal challenges were competitive.

Oceania champions Tonga, who competed at the Netball World Cup earlier in July, finally claimed the gold medal in the sport when they defeated the Fijian Pearls 56-52 in a tough battle.

In doing so the Tongan Tala became the only third team to win gold in the netball competition at the Pacific Games - with Fiji and the Cook Islands sharing the gold previously.

The Pacific Games Media reported that the two teams started with a bang and showed why they were the final two battling it out for gold.

Tonga captain Hulita Veve said to come out on top four years on from the Samoa 2019 Pacific Games is indeed satisfying.

"We never expected to win this gold. We (both teams) came out fighting - we both wanted to win and to have it in our favour in the end is indeed sweet and refreshing. It was an inspiring end to a beautiful tournament."

Samoa took home the bronze medal after seeing off a determined Papua New Guinea side 52-49.

New Caledonia win sailing gold

New Caledonia added two more gold medals to their tally in the sailing event.

The French territory won the women's sailboard female lightweight (windsurf) category with Solenn Paule Gourand ép Calvet winning gold.

The one-person dinghy individual male, New Caledonia's Etienne Le Pen claimed gold, Samoa's Eroni Leilua earned silver, and Australia's Isaac Schotte collected bronze.

Australia claim beach gold medals

Australia won both beach volleyball gold medals on the final day of competition at Honiara's SIFF Academy on Saturday.

Having defeated favourites Vanuatu in the semi-final, Jana Milutinovic and Stefie Fejes triumphed in the women's gold medal match, beating hosts Solomon Islands 2-0 (21-9, 21-10).

Fejes told the Pacific Games News Service that the win was amazing.

"Today's win is such a great deal for me and my partner (Milutinovic), it's an amazing feeling and we're proud of this achievement."

Australia's Ben Hood and D'Artagnan Potts had to come back from one set down to beat this year's surprise package, Tuvalu, 2-1 in the men's gold medal match.

The win means the Australians are established as the Oceania reps at the 2024 Olympic Games.

It also means the Vanuatu, in the women at least, have lost their Games title and Olympics' hope from the Pacific.

Women's bronze went to Vanuatu's Majabelle Lawac and Sherysyn Toko, who overcame Fiji 2-0 (21-10, 21-9).

Northern Mariana Islands held off a strong second set display from Solomon Islands to win the men's bronze medal match 2-0 (21-13, 21-15).

Solomons out on penalty kicks

The Solomon islands' hopes of winning the gold medal in football were dashed on Saturday when New Caledonia won 9-8 after the dreaded penalty kicks shootout.

New Caledonia had led the game 1-0 in front of a vocal and strong local crowd but John Orobulu found the net in the 30th minute to draw level.

But New Caledonia took the 2-1 lead into halftime after another goal before Orobulu kept the hopes alive for the locals with his second in the 72nd minute.

New Caledonia reigned supreme there to win 9-8.

Solomon Islands captain Micah Lea'alafa told Pacific Games Media they were disappointed.

"I'm a little bit disappointed with the overall outcome because we were expecting to win," he admitted. "I think we made a slow start and gave away two easy goals," he said.

Lea'alafa thanked the local fans for their unwavering support.

"Thank you to all the supporters, they supported the team despite the fact we did not deliver the result they wanted," he said.

Guam, Tahiti win 3x3 gold

Guam successfully defended their Pacific Games men's basketball 3×3 gold medal after beating Fiji in a tightly contested battle.

"We feel incredible, this was a grafted out win," Guam captain Mark Johnson Junior told the Pacific Games News Service.

"Fiji is a really good team, very skillful, with very good experienced players. It took us a while to get back to the 3×3 group but I thought every day we were getting better and better, from the first day to our last day. We all got better and we all sacrificed for the team and I thought it was a great team," he said.

Tahiti took home the gold in the women's division defeating Fiji 11-7.

New Caledonia took home the gold after beating PNG 21-5 in the men's division while Cook Islands beat New Caledonia 21-12 to claim bronze in the women's event.

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