The heroes and heroines behind the Games, and rewriting your own stories

The heavens opened in Apia yesterday after a lull of 12-18 hours — as if to allow the 2019 XVI Pacific Games opening ceremony to proceed as planned and prayed for — and without interruption.

And Samoa’s Meteorological Division has forecast heavy rain for this whole week, further adding to the challenges that the athletes of the participating 24 nations and territories will face, as each one strives to be at their best in the region’s largest sporting meet.

Unfortunately, some sports have already been affected by the unpredictable weather, with some such as tennis forced to defer their matches to Tuesday, and others like cricket continually getting interrupted with heavy rain threatening to wash out the competition.

But the heavy rains of late has not stopped New Caledonia and Tahiti from announcing their intentions in the 2019 XVI edition of the Games, with the two French territories snatching the gold and silver medals on the first day of the competition, with Fiji following with a bronze. 

We can only hope and pray that Samoa’s and the region’s athletes remain injury free and play to the best of their ability, without having to worry about the weather and its impact on their overall performance.

We spare a thought as well for the Solomon Islands coach, who has been quarantined at the Tupua Tamasese Meaole (TTM) National Hospital on Upolu, after he tested positive for malaria. Team Solomon Islands is one man down, but are definitely not out, if their performance in the opening ceremony night that coincided with their independence celebrations is any indication.

And while we look forward to those epic moments in Pacific sporting history, when Samoa’s world champion weightlifters Don Opeloge and Feagaiga Stowers go against the best in the region, we acknowledge the contribution of avid sports fans whose long-time love and passion for a sport compelled them to invest and grow it over the years. 

Local businessman naturalised Samoan citizen, Frankie Cai, comes to mind and is in that league. He has been credited with reviving table tennis in Samoa.

"Well we all know that the Chinese are always the experts in table tennis, so that's why we're glad to have Frankie back into the team, though Frankie also wanted to help our team Samoa be make a hit at the Pacific Games this year," said the Samoa Team manager, Fusi Coffin. 

Mr. Cai was also the only medal winner in table tennis for Samoa in the 2007 South Pacific Games which Samoa hosted back then, winning a silver medal for the Samoan table tennis team.

We are sure there are others like Mr Cai in the other participating Pacific Island nations and territories, who for the love of the sport, give unconditionally and play a big role in supporting and growing a sport or sports within their communities.

And if it is not through providing direct financial support, his or she could be committed to sports administration and are going out of their way to promote and grow it in their respective countries and territories. 

In the next 12 days when an athlete or a group of athletes take the medal platform to be presented with a gold, silver or bronze, we should remember the work of Mr Cai and his peers in the region, who work behind-the-scenes to pull it all together and are the unsung heroes and heroines of the Games.

In the last edition of the Games in Port Moresby in 2015, Papua New Guinea topped the medal tally with 88 gold for only the second time in history and collected the most medals (217) overall. New Caledonia came second, only the third time in history for it to miss it on the top spot and Tuvalu won its first ever gold medal. 

We look forward to records being broken and history rewritten by the athletes, and note too that even the host nation with its 506 athletes, is now within a whisker of rewriting its own story at the 2019 XVI Pacific Games.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi has credited Samoa’s “one in spirit” for the success thus far in the country playing host to the Games, and Samoans rising up to the occasion as host.

We wish the 5000-plus athletes all the best in their respective sports and look forward to telling your stories, of you rising above adversity to claim the highest pinnacle in sports in our Blue Ocean.

Have a lovely Tuesday Samoa and God bless. 

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