“It’s like Moata’a playing the All Blacks.” No medals but a lot of pride for Team Samoa Va’a

The va’a women’s team coaches could not be prouder of their team, with a bronze medal for Anne Cairns and a strong finals performance from the 1500 metre marathon team.

Samoa came came fifth in their final, after fighting to be there having protested their disqualification in their heats, and making third in their semifinals against Guam and Wallis and Futuna.

Tahiti won with a 30 second lead ahead of New Caledonia, and Papua New Guinea scored third place. Fiji, Samoa and the Cook Islands followed.

Coaches Ulugia Jay and Tutasi Schuster said watching Samoa get through all three races to get to the finals made them proud.

“Every turn was nail-biting. Everyone was struggling on the turns, it was pretty nerve-wracking to watch it,” Ulugia said. 

“To make it to the finals, that’s big for us.”

“It’s like Moata’a playing the All Blacks,” Tutasi Schuster said. “They are so advanced overseas, and I think we have done well for Samoa because we don’t have a lot of competitions.”

Out of the 13 in the women’s team, just three have competed internationally before, she added. The Pacific Games were a golden opportunity for more paddlers to get competitive experience they otherwise cannot afford.

“Now, we have 13 experienced paddlers and we are so grateful that the games were held here, because we cannot afford to fly over and do this,” said Ms Schuster. 

Overall, the team was challenged by the new race location in Mulifanua, a vastly different course to their training grounds in Mulinu’u, and the new outrigger canoes (paopao). 

It is excellent equipment but so different to what the teams are used to, Ms Schuster said. 

The Paddling Association is hoping the Government will keep the paopao in Samoa rather than selling many of them like after 2007’s Pacific Games.

With Samoa hosting the 2021 World Long Distance Championship of Outrigger Canoeing soon, Ulugia said keeping them and training hard with them will be essential to the team’s development.

“We have started lifting our competition level up but now that we have the equipment that will give us a big push to up that level.

“They are very expensive and if we can keep what we are using here it will be a massive investment into that event, and into the sport,” he said.

“This is our leg over the fence when you are running away from the Dobermans,” Ms Schuster said, laughing.

The team is: Anne Cairns, Frances Clara Grace Meredith Ah Kuoi, Moana Maria Schreckenberg, Moevanu Aiomanu Tupu, Tafaifa Fuimaono, Jessie Lourdes Tupu.

Samoa’s six men teams had less luck today. They came sixth in the 500 metre sprint finals with a time of 1:56.91, following Tonga, Tahiti, Wallis and Futuna, Fiji and gold winner New Caledonia.

In the 15000 metre race, they were disqualified in their heats because they turned over their flag during the race. Tahiti won the finals, followed by New Caledonia and Fiji. 

And singles racer Esera Aumua nearly had bronze in his hands, he said, before falling back and conceding it to Cook Islands paddler Andre Tutaka-George.

Tahiti took home nearly every Gold medal of the day: the women’s and men’s singles 500 meter sprint, the women’s six person 500 metre sprint, and the men’s and women’s 1500 metre marathons.

New Caledonia won the men’s six person 500 metre sprint, followed by Fiji and Wallis and Futuna, and Tahiti placed fourth.

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