PNG finish second


PAPUA New Guinea had a brilliant second week to finish second in the Pacific Games overall medal tally with 38 gold, 57 silver and 35 bronze in Samoa.
New Caledonia finished on top with 76 gold, 55 silver and 51 bronze, according to the official Games website.
At the end of the first week in Apia, PNG were labouring in sixth spot behind New Caledonia, Samoa, Tahiti, Fiji and Australia.
But athletics and powerlifting put in a herculean effort to help overhaul the hosts, Tahiti, Fiji and Australia for second spot ahead of Saturday’s closing ceremony.
The 16th edition of the Games came to a close, with song, speeches and traditional fire dancing, ending a fortnight of competition among 24 Pacific nations.
Almost 5,000 athletes competed in the Samoan capital, making it the biggest Games.
The ceremony began with many of the athletes, some wearing their medals, walking a lap of Apia Park Stadium athletics track, past the flaming cauldron, which had seen five days of action this week.
It ended with fire dancing and fireworks, including an illuminated “tofa soifua Pacific” message of farewell to the departing teams.
Many of the 3,000 volunteers who contributed to the running of the Games, from catering and logistics to helping at sporting venues, received a huge cheer as they paraded in red uniforms.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi, who was an archer in Team Samoa but withdrew from bronze medal contention to allow his younger teammate to take his place, addressed the thousands of performers, athletes, volunteers and fans at Apia Park Stadium.
“What a feast of athletic talent, prowess and courage we have seen in the last fortnight,” he said.
“Not only has the Games become a great regional sporting event, but it is truly inscribed with much deeper cultural and political importance.”
Malielegaoi said the Games in Samoa “for some may be the only chance-in-a-lifetime experience”.
“Samoa has been privileged with a fortnight filled with triumphs and disappointments,” he said.
“But for all of you who have worked so hard to be selected in your teams, to have made it this far, to compete at this level is a significant accomplishment.
“Winning medals is the crowning glory but in the end, it is the extra effort that separates a winner from second place.
“To all the medal winners, I offer our heartiest congratulations. And to those who fell short, I say congratulations as well. You all represent the best of your respective countries have to offer and all of you ought to be proud of how you have performed.”
President of the Pacific Games Council, the body which oversees the four-yearly gathering, Vidhya Lakhan said: “These Games far exceeded our expectations in terms of the number of athletes participating, the arrangements made, the excellent venues provided, and the very high level of competition.”
He said the review of the Games charter, which happens after every event, will include the issue of transgender athletes, after transgender New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard won gold, prompting much debate in Samoan.
Following protocol, Lakhan officially closed the Games.
The Pacific Games flag was lowered and handed over to the president of the Samoan Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee, and then to a representative of the Solomon Islands.
– gamesnewsservice

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