Young champions the beginning of new era for Samoan sports

Wow. What a start. Six gold medals on the first three days of competition for Team Samoa. It is definitely an achievement to celebrate.

Keep in mind that as this piece was being written yesterday, more gold medals were being won so that by today, Samoa’s tally would be well past the six gold medals from the first three days. Incredible.

And let’s not forget the many silver and bronze medals won by our Samoan athletes. The fact is that while gold is the preferred colour for any athlete and supporters, silver and bronze – and even fourth place – is an achievement.

They all deserve the highest praise and congratulations. So we extend a hearty congratulations to all the XVI Pacific Games medal winners so far. Well done.

For Samoa, what’s even more impressive, and comforting, is that the first six gold medals came from sports and venues where we would not normally expect to hear the Samoan national anthem ring out loud and proud among our Pacific peers. We’re talking about archery, lawn bowling and swimming, which has been the best story of this Pacific Games for Samoa thus far.

Indeed, Samoa is not known as a powerhouse in these particular sports.

But here we are five days into the competition, dubbed the Olympics of Pacific sports, and Samoa is well and truly basking in glory on the medal tally with several gold, silver and bronze medals to boast about. And boast we shall.

Now who would have thought that Samoa’s first gold medal could come from archery, let alone a young 18-year-old who was celebrating her birthday the same day?

Which is precisely what Jil Walter did in front of what is arguably the biggest crowd to have turned out to watch an archery event in Samoa.

With local and global interest surrounding Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi’s participation as the oldest Games athlete, the archery competition had never been more interesting – as a news event at least.

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But while the attention was on one of the Pacific’s most respectable statesmen wearing another hat as an athlete, a young Samoan girl, who has archery in her blood through her father Muaausa Joseph, stood up and made her country proud.

Having won gold, the shy Jil said: "I’m surprised actually. I’m just really happy to be given the opportunity to compete. I just wanted to shoot really well, that was my main goal in the games."

Well she did more than shoot well. She conquered the competition wrote history becoming Samoa’s first gold medalist at the 2019 XVI Pacific Games.

But that was only the start. Just a few hundred meters down the road at the Samoa Aquatic Centre, another team of young Samoans were rewriting history in terms of Samoan swimming.

Brandon Shuster and Lauren Sale became the first Samoan swimmers to win gold at the Pacific Games. Having won the 200 meters men’s and women’s backstroke finals, it was only the start of what has been a dream run for Coach Suzie Schuster and the Samoan swimming fraternity.

Since then, the swimming team has secured two more gold medals – with the possibility of winning more gold medals last night (Thursday). What a story. Incredible.

Not many people would have given these young swimmers a chance. But they have stood up, they have done their homework and swimming in front of their families and supporters, they have accomplished something that can never be taken away from them. Writing lines in the history books at their tender age.

We are looking at the present and the future of sports in Samoa. The achievements in this Pacific Games, especially for the young athletes, is the beginning of a new era in Samoan sports.

There is no doubt that we will be seeing and reading a lot more about the youngWalter, Schusters, Sales, Stickland and all the young athletes who have – and will rise to make Samoa proud - in the remaining days of the Pacific Games.

And just so that we don’t think only of the young ones, the historical gold medal by lawn bowling duo, Lealaiauloto Iva Tiatia and Tupai Avala Savai’inaea is heartwarming. Incredible. It is a story of never giving up on your dreams, knowing that one day, yes one sweet day, you will get there. Well done.

Keep in mind we are only five days into the competition today so there will be a lot more to celebrate. 

Go Team Samoa!

Have a great Friday everyone, God bless!

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