Those jaw-dropping performances, and getting a second chance

By Alexander Rheeney 13 July 2019, 9:12PM

It has been an incredible effort by Samoa’s best since competition in the 2019 XVI Pacific Games opened last Monday.

From Jil Walter winning the country’s first gold medal in archery, to Brandon Schuster and Lauren Sale creating history to get Samoa’s first swimming gold medals, to young weightlifters Don Opeloge, Jack Opeloge and Leotina Petelo making a powerful statement to the region. 

And of course the gigantic step taken by Samoan lawn bowlers Tupai Avala Savai'inaea and Lealaiauloto Iva Tiatia, who gave the country its first ever gold medal in lawn bowls. Vaipava Nevo then collected five gold medals in the 67kg men’s category of the four-in-one International Weightlifting Championships, in a dominant showing at Gym 1, Faleata Sports Complex.

Not forgetting that father-daughter combination that reaped rewards for Samoa, when Mua’ausa Joseph Walter and his daughter Jil Walter defeated Tonga in the mixed team recurve division to get gold. 

And Sanele Mao ended six days of competition on Saturday with an epic performance in the four-in-one International Weightlifting Championships, winning three Pacific Games gold medals and breaking Oceania and Commonwealth records. Wow.

There are many more heroes and heroines in the other sports, who also deserve a mention, for making the last six days memorable. In fact it has been nothing short of incredible. Just wow.

But those life-changing moments were not only restricted to the field of play. Even ordinary Samoans have been positively impacted, to ensure the legacy of the Games will be long-term. 

The youth from the London Missionary Society’s Pacific Church of Faleula immediately come to mind. The church hopes that the sport of badminton will change the youth’s fortunes, and give them the confidence to abandon a life of alcohol, smoking and attitude problems. 

A LMS church minister’s wife, Televine Masfau, told this newspaper about the challenges that the 20 youth face and getting them involved in sports was one way of ensuring they stayed off the streets, and are not exposed the challenges young people face today. 

"At first, we tried to push them into our church community to try and change their ways, and when we prayed to God to give them a new oath, he has given us badminton sport as the answer," she said. 

"Some of them didn't really want to join but when they came to China, that has made them encouraged to join the badminton sport and it's so good to keep them out and off the street because most of this youth were involved in drinking, smoking, and those sorts of things."

Most of the children do not have proper education, but Mrs Masefau said their involvement with badminton has boosted their confidence, and led to them getting involved with the sport. 

Amazingly, the youth were even considered for national selection in Samoa’s badminton team, and most of them who did not make the team then asked to become volunteers during the Pacific Games.

We are sure there are similar stories out there of the 2019 edition of the Games touching the lives of ordinary citizens. Including those who have been given a second chance by this Games to go one step further.

And when we talk about being given a second chance, we acknowledge the significance of the decision by the New Zealand High Commissioner Dr Trevor Matheson to visit the Maluafou College, which was one of three Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (CCCS)-run colleges that were pulled out of the 2019 Pacific Games opening ceremony at the eleventh hour by the church hierarchy. 

It wasn't a surprise that the decision by the CCCS-church hierarchy had an impact psychologically on the students and their studies, as highlighted recently by the college principal Lasi Tava’e.

"God has been so good so far. Everyone knew how heartbreaking it was for the students, to suddenly be pulled out of the show last minute while they've been practicing tirelessly for the opening ceremony but thank God, he has opened another door for our school," she said.

We look forward to Maluafou College students taking their place at the Apia Park Stadium next Saturday in the closing ceremony. And hope too that the organisers can also make room for those 500 students from St Mary’s and Samoa Colleges, who filled in for their Maluafou peers last Sunday and did a fantastic job despite last minute preparations. They too should be given every opportunity to tick that one last box, in what is turning out to be a very successful edition of the Pacific Games.

Have a lovely Sunday everyone and God bless. 

By Alexander Rheeney 13 July 2019, 9:12PM

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